Ten Years of Kissing Ball Workshops

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Wow, ten years since I started these holiday workshops. These workshops began because I felt inspired by the holiday round greenery kissing balls I’d see when visiting relatives’ homes in Canada. Then, one day, a cousin asked me to help her making kissing balls and I did.

We spent all day making them. I said, “Hey, this would be a fun class to teach.” She agreed. We drove to a place where I get all my supplies a few days later, and said, “We can split all the expenses and do this.” Yet, she responded with, “No.” She said it was “my thing and that she didn’t want to participate in teaching it.”

So, there you have it – this is how it all started, and me being a plant person, this workshop was a perfect fit for me to add to my workshop offerings as part of my small business. I could teach about the greens and create a wonderful holiday decor item.

From that spark of a suggestion, my annual kissing ball workshops evolved over the years. I started to learn how to make wreaths myself, improved the KB making technique with new ideas, and then I added new creative items, which attendees may elect to make at the workshops, such as, the candy cane wreath, horse head wreath, square wreath, cross wreath, and more. Each year, it became more and more creative. And it grew with holiday spirit and in attendance.

The KB workshops kicks off everyone’s season – so they tell me. The “regulars” tell me it is the thing that makes them get into the holiday mood. This makes me so happy. Not to get mushy, but I didn’t have any children, and you know, I have always, always missed that part of what it must be like to have kids getting up on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents. Somehow, this event has filled that void for me during the holidays. The KB workshop is my highlight of the holiday season.

In my case, the holiday spirit starts taking hold in early November. Every single year, I start cleaning the messes in my workshop space to get things ready. I’m alone and working in the cold because the wood stove isn’t running yet. I start sorting holiday items, taking count of stock, cleaning, dusting, moving items to make space, and then comes moving in the tables and chairs, etc.

All of this pre-work to setup the workshop space takes time but it has become a good ritual for me. As I work on the various aspects, I start to think about the laughter, the smells of freshly cut balsam and all the fresh greens which the attendees cut at the workshop, and the images of the past ten years pop into my mind. I usually put on some holiday music as I do my thing setting up. This helps the holiday magic fill the air.

As my mind starts to wander, I even smile sometimes as I clean due to the memories. I may even laugh when I start thinking about something in particular that happened, or whatever. I just start thinking about all the attendees in this space every December. I think about the chaos of it all – usually, it is good chaos. Everyone is excited and getting into the holiday decorating zone. But sometimes, it is other chaos of just getting all the holiday ducks in a row.

The memories are good and so is the setup but it also reminds me that some people, though, sadly, I’ve learned over the years, are struggling at that time of year – but not showing it. Maybe something recent happened in their life and they feel down or alone. But, they still show up here for the KB workshop regardless, pull up their big holiday panties, and realize, hey, I can hopefully break out of my doldrums by being here at Cathy T’s KB Workshop. And they tend to feel better afterward the workshop. This makes me happy too.

Ten years. I never thought I’d be offering this workshop for ten years. How can it be even ten years already? I remember joking once, I’ll be a little old lady with gray hairs doing this workshop – but can I make it that long? I even feel I put on weight this time of year in preparation for being Mrs. Cathy Clause at the KB workshop. Seriously!

I’ve stressed out on so many aspects to set up this event. Like, will there be enough greens, will it snow, will my truck get a flat, how am I going to stage all of this first thing in the morning, what if it rains, what if we get a blizzard, and, what if this, what if that? I’m a big what iffer! But this can be good for planning. Thank Goodness I have Mr. Steve Clause to help me. And he does. Every year – he is part of the spirit too. I believe he loves this event as well. He would miss it if I didn’t do it. He says to me – you always do the what if, but it always is fine. He’s right.

There have been so many “behind the scenes” things I’ve dealt with which no one has any idea. I thought, I should jot down some of the interesting things that happened to me as a result or at this workshop. I started to do so today. And here they are…

The Mystery Coat:

A black mid-length winter coat was left by the fire pit outside on the workshop day. After everyone leaves, I usually sit outdoors by the fire pit with Steve to relax and talk about the day. When I put out word via emails and Facebook posts to the attendees the day after the workshop that someone left their black coat here, no one from the workshops ever claimed it. The coat fits me PERFECTLY. I needed a new coat at that time and it is larger than my usual coat size, yet, somehow it fitted just right. Was it the Christmas spirits who left it here? Still a mystery. There was a small red ball ornament in the pocket.

Almost Arrested for Taking Berries:

I got yelled at by a guy driving past a road side area where I had pulled over to cut “red berries” from wild shrubs for a KB workshop. It was a remote, nowhere area. He pulled up quickly out of nowhere too, with tires coming to a halting screech. He busted out of his car, came stomping over with a note pad in hand, and said he was going to REPORT ME for stealing red berries from a property. I remember feeling so annoyed because I was finally “in a moment” of having fun. I apologized profusely and explained I had no idea this was private property. Then he asked me, “Well, why do you want those anyways?” When I explained to him it was for the holiday workshop and that I teach about plants too, he calmed down and let me go. I didn’t dare mention the words: Kissing Balls.

The Old Rusty Wreath Frame

As mentioned above, a ritual of cleaning takes place every year in the workshop space. Well, one year, I saw something tucked behind my big black oil tank in my basement. What is that, I wondered. I pulled and tugged at it and out it came with a force. It was an “old, rusty wreath frame of a very large size.” Seriously, folks. This was not put there by me. I didn’t even make big wreaths yet. Was it left behind from whomever owned this house over 30 years ago? Or did Santa leave it there? Now, if that is not weird, what is? I won’t toss out that wreath frame. It hangs in the workshop space. I find it would be bad luck to remove it.

The Big Balls

Okay, we have, over the years, made the biggest balls of them all. Every year, I have to remind all the ladies that if they make them too big, they will fall off the hooks. We keep to measurement guidelines now, but one friend did tell me, she saw her kissing ball rolling down her street on a very snowy and windy day from her kitchen window. She made her kissing ball too big, and thus, it was too heavy and fell off the hook. We don’t make them “monster” sizes anymore but they do come out larger and better, in my opinion, than what you see in retail. OK, so big balls it is! But I did have to enforce no more monster balls, after all, this isn’t Halloween, it is Christmas! LOL.

The Dark

Every year, I offer one or two day time workshops. And a week night workshop. This year, I decided to skip the weeknight offering. It is just too dark and cold outside. The greens are outdoors but we hold the workshops indoors. To lug all the greens to the indoors in the dark was becoming too much for me. One year, after everyone left, I switched on a spot light pointing outdoors to finish up some work on some items outside in the dark, and when I clicked on the spot light, there – standing right in-front of me was a deer. I was like, OMG! It startled me. I said out loud, “You stay away from my greens!” And right then, his nose glowed red. Then I heard the jingle bells of a sleigh take off.

The High

No, we don’t get high here but the smell of the greens is so over powering in the workshop space, we may get that tinsel type high from the wonderful aromas of the fresh greens. But the natural high I get from the workshop event lasts well after everyone leaves from the workshop. In the first few years, the workshop would run all day, even into the night. I had so much adrenaline after it was over that I often sat in my kitchen trying to deflate. Mr. Santa Steve is asleep in bed by then. But I can’t fall asleep, even though I’m usually exhausted, so I start looking at all the wonderful photos of everyone from the day’s activities on my iPhone. The wreaths, kissing balls, and all the smiling attendees’ faces. In more recent years, the ladies have made a day of their events. My workshop is their number one stop, and after, some will go to lunch out, or even attend another holiday event somewhere. My event transitioned into a day of activities for the attendees, not just a few hours. Pretty cool.

The Weather

Knock on those wooden ornaments, I have been very lucky with the weather. We always make the next day a backup date should we get a big snowy storm, but in 10 years, that has never happened. One year, it was so warm out, we had t-shirts on – yup, global warming does exist. Santa is very good to me. He waits to bring on the snow storms after my holiday workshops. This year, I have a feeling it will be cold however, which means me working outside in the cold. Much of my preparation is done very close to the workshop date because I like things fresh. I like quality. And some of the preparation is done far in advance like now, including getting sign-ups, picking up hard good supplies, and what have you.

Well, I know there is more storytelling to tell but I can’t think of it now. I know when I work today, some of those stories will pop into my head again. If they do I will share them. In the meantime – You too could become part of the KB story. Sign-up for our workshop on Saturday, December 7th. There are still seats available. Ho, Ho, Ho…

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Cathy T Holding Large Wreath

Me holding a Large Custom Wreath and Wearing that Mysterious Black Coat

 

Thank you to all at the Crafts Fair

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It was a gorgeous sunny (yet very chilly outdoors) type of day at the fall craft’s fair on Saturday in Stafford, but now- for me anyways, it is planning and sign-up time for the Holiday Workshops! Here we go!

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Two Lovely Ladies with Wreath and KB Made at an Evening Workshop last year!

I’m offering 3 sessions this year and seats are limited in each, so it is again, just a friendly reminder – Sign up early before it is sold out. To sign up – visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and you will see 3 separate posts for each type of workshop.

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Beautiful Candle Centerpiece Example Made in Last Year’s Workshop

This year, in particular, it is a shorter month than usual. Why I’m offering my first workshop on 11/30/19, and then a week later is the next workshop on 12/7/19. I know folks sometimes don’t like hearing about holidays now, but alas, I have to plan ahead for everyone who wishes to attend.

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Two KB Examples

I also take custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls the first weeks in December.

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Extra Large Custom Wreath made by C. Testa

Just a heads-up to all – And again, thanks to everyone who visited me at my vendor table last Saturday – so fun meeting you all!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

 

Getting into The Spirit of Fall

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Everywhere you go in the retail stores, you will see a bit of both these days – fall and holiday decorations and supplies. A month ago, I saw so much holiday decor in a store, I told myself – don’t look that way and stay focused on fall.

I love both seasons, of course, and I also have lots of activities surrounding both in my world of offering workshops and seasonal plant related gifts.

For example, in October, my succulent topped pumpkin workshops and custom orders kick it off. Then, as October comes to an end, a craft fair or holiday event pops up, which quickly leads to my holiday workshops in early December where we make kissing balls and wreaths.

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As I worked in my greenhouse yesterday preparing for a fall craft fair coming up next weekend (as noted above), I was totally in the mood for fall. I know the holidays are right around the corner, but fall is still in the air. The fallen tree leaves crunched under my hiking boots as I walked the path to my greenhouse, and the cold brisk morning temperatures were just chilly enough to require a vest to keep warm, but not a jacket.

These environmental elements are what gets my mood into a particular seasonal theme. In fact, I went to a couple fall themed events last Saturday with Steve, my husband. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm – and I was feeling like taking a break and enjoying the fall scenes, while they last, because it won’t be long before fall moves by quickly.

We drove to a pumpkin event in Coventry, CT at a church, which turned out to be directly across the street (practically) to a restaurant we enjoy there. The pumpkins were being sold at a church and the money is donated to various causes, one of which is a Navajo Indian farm. Since it was a nice area, we picked this as our first stop on Saturday.

The pumpkins were quite large and so were the gourds of various colors which I had not seen these colors before. I thought how wonderful some of these would have been for my succulent topped pumpkin workshops in October, but no matter, I still was there to enjoy them for carving or other projects.

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I picked out this one for myself. This gourd weighs a lot but I just may make something creative with it this week. I had never seen this orange and white pattern on a gourd before. It is not a candidate for carving because it is so thick, but I couldn’t resist it.

Because the sun was brightly shining on this little journey of our’s, and the color of the shrubs next to the church were so intensely red, I used the opportunity to have Steve take a photo of me. As you can see, we were in the pumpkin and fall mood for sure.

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I absolutely love that Steve enjoys fall adventures like this as much as I do. He is a kid at heart when it comes to carving pumpkins (and me too). He picked out a large tall one for his carving plans the next day.

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After we visited this church and had lunch nearby, we drove back roads over to Manchester, CT and it turned out to be a spontaneous beautiful ride with some foliage colors still to be enjoyed. Steve commented how wonderful these roads would be on the motorcycle. He was starting to appreciate that we decided to take the day to have some fall fun.

In Manchester, we visited some small shops on Main Street during a Halloween Candy event, which even if you don’t have kids (we do not), you might enjoy. Seeing all the creative costumes and the smiles on the children’s faces is another way to get into the spirit of the fall season. Plus, they have a couple breweries in that area and we stopped at one which Steve also appreciated.

All of this activity got my spirit into creating plant related gift items and decor themed in fall colors, but I am still making some fun holiday items too. One of the fall items are large glass globes filled with live succulents and decor of orange and yellow fall colors. These will be available at this weekend’s Fall Craft Fair at the Stafford Fire Department’s event on Saturday, November 2nd which runs from 9 am to 2 pm.

 

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I was debating whether I should create holiday items or fall themes for this craft show. As I got into making items, I let the fall spirit nature guide me. The natural cones and lotus pods of warm vibes as well as some vivid and bright orange and yellow fall decor let me go into that decorating mode. I think our Saturday adventure helped me get into that mode too, which was perhaps another reason why we got out there for some fall events.

This fall fair is expected to have various craft vendors, some of which are hand-made pottery and other items. I’m sure it will be a fun day for me – and you too if you decided to stop by! I always love meeting other vendors and adventuring to a new place, as you never know what kind of inspiration you will get from it – like we did this past weekend. Stafford is also another nearby town to be appreciated in all seasons. They have a local cidery and gift shops. They have a lot to offer and it is not far from the fire house.

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Here are the details, again, of the location and event:

2019 Annual Fall Craft Fair at Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary
Saturday, November 2nd, 9 am to 2 pm
27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Fire Dept Building

Hope you will have the opportunity to swing by this weekend!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Every Plant Picture Has A Story

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Fall is a time to capture the sun’s beautiful rays on the last days of the gardening year when our plants and gardens are at their final stages before frost.

Last week, I posted about two tall planters at my home that had upright elephant ears and a couple beautiful annuals.

I truly enjoyed looking at them all year, but in the fall, the sun is different. The sun gives the plants a backdrop of bright yellow and shimmering red fall foliage – and it feels special.

Thus, I asked a professional photographer friend to take photos of my planters before they were dissembled for storage.

Here is just one of those photos:

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Is this not a stunning photo above?!

I love the way this photographer uses color and light. To me a photo like this is heaven. It is eye candy. It makes me say, “Ahhh.”

The wonderful photographer who took this photo of my planters (and many others to be blogged about soon) is Jackie and her site is called JMS Art & Photo.

I met Jackie when my workshops were featured in a magazine called, “Go Local.” I loved the photos she took then as well for that article. Many of them were from inside my greenhouse. I knew at the moment I saw her photos, I liked her style of photography.

Jackie has vibrant red hair, the friendliest smile, and is also a very creative art teacher in Stafford. She is passionate about what she does in all facets of her life from what I can tell. I will say this – I wish I had her as my art teacher when I was a kid. When I see her class related photos, I just love how she uses colors in a very vivid way. She also has that color talent (which I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it) of the photos she takes at musical fests and shows – and of my plants now! Go visit her site, you will see what I mean.

I find that every plant photo has a story and every photographer does as well. I’ve met 4 professional photographers (each women), and hired each of them to come here to take photos of my plants at some point in my gardening life.

One photographer moved away, and I remember being sad because I just loved her style too. Each photographer is different and each definitely has their own unique style and method – all wonderful. I splurge from time to time to have one take pro photos of my plants here. It is fun for me and a treat.

I want to share many of the photos Jackie of JMS Art & Photo took for me here at my home of my plants this fall. This is on my blogging to do list. And, hopefully, by the winter months, I will be able to do so.

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly share just a couple of these photos with you today.

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I’m lucky to have met special people, such as Jackie, who have a passion for their art  – and other photographers I have mentioned on this blog in prior posts. Thankfully, they never think I’m a cuckoo for my passion of plants! As they clicked away with their cameras here, I feel like my plants are on the red carpet. And I’m happy they are willing to entertain my passion thru their lenses.

Ironically, I’ve met photographers at craft shows as well. And I happen to have one coming up. In the same town that Jackie teaches. It is a Fall Craft Fair, scheduled in a week, on November 2nd, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm at the Stafford Fire Department house located on 27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT.

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You can find out all the details on their Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Facebook page. Approximately 30 vendors are scheduled to participate. My items will be focused on plant gifts related to Christmas themes as well as some fall themes. I hear they make soup in their onsite kitchen at the fire house – and I think I will be enjoying some of that myself! Swing by if you can. And don’t forget to shop the local businesses nearby in the center of Stafford Springs on Main Street. There is a beautiful artisan shop in town and a local cidery, both worth the drop by before or after.

In the meantime, be sure to capture and take in the last moments of fall whether with your own photos of your plants or when you are out and about attending shows. The leaves were stunning this year in Connecticut but many have fallen now onto the ground. Don’t miss out on the last days of these plant photo opportunities.

Have a great weekend!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

 

 

Mini Succulent Pumpkins at the Market

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Banner of Workshops for FB Page Oct 2019

Hi all,

The recent fall weather changes of cool evenings signals Succulent Pumpkin time which is a favorite of mine for autumn decorating. They have been all the rage for a few years now and I very much enjoy creating these and offering workshops and demo’s on them this time of year. Here’s what’s coming up!

EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

You have several choices to learn the how-to’s or to participate hands-on with Container Crazy CT:

September 28, 2019 – Saturday
Ellington Farmers Market
Mini Succulent Pumpkins
9 am to 12 pm
Arbor Park

Look for me in the big white gazebo where I will be providing tips on how to create gorgeous succulent topped pumpkins. Bring your own mini pumpkin and we will help you get started! Various types of succulents will be available for purchase from me to finish your design at home. (Note: This is not a full “hands-on event.” It is set up to show you each step and help get you started to finish DIY style at home.)

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Bring a Mini Pumpkin like this one!

October 5, 2019 – Saturday (10 am to 12 pm)
October 12, 2019 – Saturday (1 pm to 3 pm)
Container Crazy CT’s
Workshops in Broad Brook, CT

These are two full hands-on workshop where you make your own succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. All the details are outlined on our site: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. Bring your own pumpkin(s) – real or faux. We supply the class, tools, moss, propagation info, autumn snacks, and more. You purchase the succulents you wish to use at the workshop – and we have varied styles and especially prepared succulent for you. What does this mean? There are advanced steps required for success with preparing succulents which Cathy T does for you before the workshop. This is part of the reason why we offer choices and we also tell you the secrets on the how to’s. An additional bonus is attendees are invited to free Facebook Live sessions after to keep learning about succulents, how to deal with them later in the season, and offer over-wintering care details. These two workshops have registration fees and pre-registration is required. One workshop is offered during the morning hours, and the other is held in the early afternoon. It is a fun day with a friend, mom/daughter, or solo – Come join our autumn fun.

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Large Succulent Pumpkin

October 10th, 2019 – Thursday (1 pm – 2 pm)
West Hartford Garden Club
Succulent Topped Pumpkin Demonstration

I will be speaking at the wonderful West Hartford Garden Club on a Thursday – during the day hours. If you are free during the day and wish to learn how to make a Succulent Topped Pumpkin, come on by. The club starts their day with a lunch at 12:00 noon followed by their business meeting, and then my presentation at 1 pm. Take note their location recently moved to St. John’s Episcopal Church at 679 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, CT. (Note: This is not a hands-on session, but a demonstration. Contact the club for details about attendance.)

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A Wooden Faux Pumpkin – The Creations from Mini, Medium, to Large are endless!

OTHER HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS

Stay tuned for the annual Holiday workshops. The registrations will be opening very soon. Visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and note the dates: November 30th for the Invite Only KB 10th year Celebration and Workshop and the December 7th Open Workshop for the Beginner and Advanced attendees. We make kissing balls, wreaths, and candle table centerpieces with fresh holiday greens at these workshops – an annual event not to be missed.

HAPPENING NOW – Autumn Cleanup of Containers

As noted above, I am already starting to disassemble some of my own plants to get a head-start. However, many of my container gardens may stay out till the first frost of October (such as the Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants) and then I store the tubers, corms, rhizomes, etc. Most of this has been previously documented on this blog. Just search by plant name and you should be able to find my overwintering posts.

I also started taking down my Morning Glory vines – they became quite messy – and grew into my garage light fixtures – the leaves were tattered and worn so out they went yesterday. I also took apart most of my tomato plants in containers, which by now, still had some fruit but most of the plants were exhausted. The soil will be tossed for these as some had plant disease issues and thus the soil is not reusable, and the pots will be thoroughly washed in soapy water with a bit of bleach before storing away the pots.

Today, I will tackle more of the tomato pots and some of my deck plants. I already moved in some houseplants to the house – and showed some tips recently on this. It is important to inspect all plants for any insects, removed any damaged leaves, wash the outside of pots if moving in with same pots, and avoid the cold chills of the evenings now for “some” houseplants. And I find it is best to move them in when the soil is dry. Some of my plants were under patio umbrellas so they were not soaked from recent rainfalls.

I always like to move in my succulents before cold wet rains which soak the soil and the soil tends to not dry out much this time of year, so I have been moving my succulent dish gardens into sun on my driveway to dry out any overly wet soil. This week is a good week to do this – we are having some great weather this week. However, I usually do this before we get chilly evenings but fell behind due to a vacation. My biggest tip is move those dish gardens with succulents in before the soaking wet soil happens and it stays cool out in the evening – because this invites insects when you move them in. Cold wet soils are not the best situation for succulents. If possible, move those succulent dish gardens in while the soil is dry. Succulent tend to rot if the soil stays really wet at the base of the plants too. There are other ways and methods to deal with extending your succulents from containers and dish gardens, and part of this is propagation steps which I go over in my October workshops.

As for the hanging basket attendees from this past spring, I showed some steps recently of propagating the succs and you may refer to your handouts too – which is one way to keep the succulent hanging baskets going. You may also just remove them individually from the hanging basket arrangement and pot them into new individual pots with fresh potting mix. Put them by a sunny window in your home.

Thanks for tuning in,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

We offer plant related workshops, container gardening and balcony garden installs, garden club talks, and occasionally sell plants and offer demo’s at markets. It is fall and winter time – and new workshops are coming up – hope you will join us.

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Workshop Dates Updated

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To learn about the latest Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

We have posted our annual “Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops” dates in October and also noted the dates of the 10th annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshops.

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Pre-registrations for the Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops are open as of today. Visit the page above to find all details, register and join us! We are offering two Saturday dates in early October.

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Dish Garden for the Raffle next Wed, 8/21, 4-6 pm @ Joe’s!

I also have a few other events coming up, one of which is NEXT week, on August 21st, 2019 at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits in East Windsor, CT. Come try some wine at their Wine Tasting and Sip while learning about my succulents from 4-6 pm! A succulent dish garden (above photo) AND bottle of wine will be raffled off that evening – free to attend all. Would love to see you all there – even if you have only a bit of time to swing in.

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The KB & Wreath Making Workshops for 2019 are a special celebration year – it is my 10th year offering this annual workshop. The Celebration Date, which will be by invite only, is scheduled on November 30, 2019. This will be for the regulars who’ve been here every year! The 2nd workshop date is December 7, 2019 for the Advance and Beginner Workshop. Take your pen and calendars out (or your iPhones) and note the dates now. More details will be provided in early September on the KB events – stay tuned. It will be a fun and busy holiday season and it is just a tad bit early to think about winter, but now is the time to note the dates if you are interested.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

Custom Orders for Wreaths and KBs

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Hello all!

Just a friendly reminder,

I am continuing to hand make custom wreaths, kissing balls, swags,
and offer boxes of greens till Christmas!

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My wreaths are very full and fluffy –
and I use between 12-15 different variety of fresh, aromatic greens.

They are adorned with a bow of your color choice (red, gold, candy cane, etc.)
and some faux berries with small glass ornaments,
or may be left natural if you desire one with no decor.

Kissing Balls and Swags are made with various greens as well.

We have about a week and a half left before the big Christmas day, so don’t delay.
*** Pick up in Broad Brook, CT by Appointment. ***

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On Saturday, December 15th, I will be one of the many vendors
at the Stafford Winter Fest.

The market is held indoors in the town hall on Main Street.

If you have not been to downtown Stafford Springs, CT in a long time, now is the time.

The Main Street runs direct to the Town Hall – the building facing the rotary, and there are shops along the way on Main Street. Many are new and happening!

There is a wonderful coffee pastry shop, pottery store, a cidery, vintage type store, a restaurant or two, and there will be a food truck in the parking lot
as well near the town hall.

Grab your umbrella and come visit.
The town hall is a lovely old building with stairs to the 2nd floor to the market place.
It is not too many stairs either – I tested it out! My hips are not as friendly now, LOL.

I am going to be there with hand-held styled holiday gifts adorned with succulents and greens, and greenery fresh items – all will be perfect for those last minute gifts or decorations.

Market place runs from 3 pm to 7 pm, and during the day, as noted on the flyer above, and there are other fun events happening same day in town.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT

KB Wreath Promo xmas

Upcoming Events and Holiday Fun

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Happy Last Day of November Everyone!

12/1 and 12/5 Holiday Workshops

Tomorrow kicks off my holiday fun – starting with the 9th Annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshop on 12/1/18 – Can’t wait to see all my creative elves yet again.

Then the following Wed, 12/5, is the 2nd Beginner Workshop and we have a large group forming – but still could squeeze in a few more elves if interested.

Location is Broad Brook, CT.
Fee is $45 pp.

Custom Orders

Additionally, I will be taking custom orders for wreaths, kissing balls, and hostess gifts starting next week. All with fresh greens, made by hand, and with lots of love! Pick up by appointment is required.

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WinterFest MarketPlace Stafford

And finally, I will be participating in a great Winterfest MarketPlace in Stafford Spring, CT on December 15th – a great day for families. There will be many activities plus the vendors at the town hall. Fun day to shop and enjoy the many small businesses in the town on Main Street.

Gift Cards and Box of Greens

Don’t forget we also offer Holiday Gift Cards during the month, and Box of Greens – All details are on my workshop’s site, called www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

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Short Holiday Story

After one amazing day with friends and family at an annual Holiday Workshop, Cathy T found a black winter coat by the outdoor fire pit – left behind by an attendee.

She searched and asked, but for a solid year, no one claimed that beautiful black winter coat. There were no clues. Nothing in the pockets. Just an XL tag and that was it.

She didn’t remember anyone wearing that black coat. Who’s was it?

So – ever since, cause you see, if fit her perfectly, Cathy T (Mrs. KB) decided to start wearing it.

It wasn’t snug like her other black (similar) coat she usually wears this time of year, and she was thankful because every year, around the holiday workshop prep, something magical happens.

A Christmas vibe enters, music starts to be played daily of holiday tunes and the tv comes on for those corny but inspirational holiday movies, and the extra pounds get put on from all the holiday snacking while making wreaths and such for customers.

After all, much energy is needed with all the prep for Mrs. KB’s holiday workshops and custom orders.

Thus, that mysterious well-fitting black winter coat, well, it was a God-send because it fits just right during holiday time. 

Gee, was it is an attendee who left it behind? Or was it some mysterious Christmas spirit who recognized Mrs. KB needed a better, warmer coat?!

Just one of the many stories from the many years of offering these holiday workshops here at Container Crazy CT’s – and we will create more this year too.

Ho, Ho, Ho. Cathy T.

Hot Peppers Ready for Winter Recipes

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I’ve been so busy this month holding Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops and Demonstrations that I was not paying attention to a hot pepper plant in one of my large container gardens outside, but my husband noticed them this weekend, and he told me on Sunday that there were so many ripe yellow peppers on the plant, he was going to go pick them.

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Matchbox Pepper for Hangers

I grew two hot pepper plant varieties this year. One was called “Matchbox Pepper” (Capsicum annuum) and I picked this one because it grows very compact, so it was absolutely perfect for hanging baskets. It produced many tiny red peppers and was very decorative. I was happy with them. As they ripened, I collect them and gave some to friends and used some for cooking. That was earlier in the season.

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Lemon Drop Hot Pepper

Then came the arrival of the other variety I had selected, called, “Lemon Drop Hot Peppers” (Capsicum baccatum) on a plant quite the opposite in size to the matchbox type. It was not compact and grew to 3 ft tall and was almost as wide. I put the lemon drop type in a rather large pot because I didn’t have time to plant that pot with my usual tropical plants,  and I almost most forgot about it this summer as it grew larger.

The lemon drop one was situated in a very hot, full sun location. It gets brutal hot actually in that spot in my yard due to no shade and receives full sun all day, thus, it was good there because peppers like the sun and warmth. And this season, it got plenty of rain falls to help water it. Usually I’m a fanatic about watering, but I must admit, I didn’t drag the garden hose up there as often as I usually do but the pepper plant did just fine.

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The Lemon Drop Hot Pepper was selected because, of course, it has a vivid and bright lemony yellow color, and I like color in my plants and container gardens. Plus I thought they looked interesting and although I can’t chomp on raw hot peppers (like my husband can) because I will choke on it, I wanted to grow them for decor and possibly seasoning recipes. They also have a waxy and shiny appearance and one time, when I went to go look at them mid summer, I was impressed with how perfect they were – not a blemish.

My husband, Steve, adores hot peppers and often he will just toss a raw one in his mouth. He could not do that straight up with the Lemon Drops peppers, however. He told me they are “killer hot.” This reaction made me laugh because he normally can chop them down without choking, like I would if I attempted it.

Okay, back to when he spotted tons of them on the plant this past weekend. He decided to go pick them all on Sunday because frost was coming. He also wanted to dry them in the oven. He loves hot peppers so much, it makes me happy he wanted to preserve them.

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In the Oven at 180

I was feeling rather tired on Sunday, so I said, “Oh, I don’t know; I read they take a long time to dry in an oven,” but he persisted, so I googled it – “180 degrees in the oven for 4-5 hours or more,” I said.

He started to cut the tops off and I told him, “Oh no, don’t cut the tops,” as I looked on Google searches more and then found a U-tube video. This guy says to dry them whole on a cookie sheet in the oven at 180 degrees for several hours.

As the peppers sat in the oven, the smell started to permeate in the house. Steve kept checking them and after 4 hours, he thought, this seems like the oven is not hot enough. He decided to take them out and off the tray, chop them into smaller pieces, and put it back in the over at 200 degrees. By the time we decided to shut the oven off – they still didn’t seem dry enough, so the next morning, I put the tray of the lemon drop peppers back in the oven at 200 degrees for one more hour – and that worked.

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When I took them out, they crushed in my fingers. I got my small chopper grinder device, which I hardly ever use, and started putting the large pieces in there to grind. Sure enough, it worked perfectly, BUT, I could not taste test it. I know I would choke, so I had to wait for Steve to come home. As soon as he did, he asked, “Where are the pepper flakes?”

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Taste Test Time!

My husband, Steve, put a dab of the yellow pepper flakes on his finger to taste them on his tongue, and he was like, “Wow, these are very hot,” and then he immediately grabbed a cup to down some water. That is not a common reaction from him. He usually can take the heat. Thus, they are truly hot. I will have to use them carefully in my autumn and winter recipes.

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I’m super glad I grew some of the Lemon Drop Hot Peppers and Matchbox Peppers from seed this year, using certified organic seed and starting both of them early, as directed. The lemon drops take longer to ripen than the matchbox ones. I definitely plan to grow them both again next year and offer up seedlings for sale.

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Easy to Grow in Pots or Hangers

Hot peppers are super easy to grow in containers. They don’t get attacked much at all by critters, animals, or insects and are very decorative in pots or hanging baskets (like I did with the matchbox type but the lemon type needs bigger pots). They are not demanding for soil, although it must be well-drained, and they need regular watering but can handle some periods of neglect from watering if there is enough rainfall.

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The Lemon Drop hot peppers are harvested later in the season which is perfectly timed for when we get in the mood to start making pots of hot chili, warming soups, and hot sauces for the autumn season.

During the growing season, the pepper plants like warm conditions and need watering regularly especially when it is super hot out, and for these two varieties mentioned, there was no staking required as may be needed for the heavier sweet bell peppers.

I basically removed the ripe hot peppers from the plants when they were the right color, as shown on the seed packets. Both of these varieties formed blemish free fruit. And side bar, I love the way the artists depict the fruit on the seed packets by Hudson Valley Seed Co., which is a company I like for seeds. I offered up seeds for sale last year, and plan to do the same this spring, so stay tuned on that.

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Seed and Plant Details

Lemon Drop Hot Pepper
Capsicum baccatum
Small, crinkled yellow peppers with waxy shine
Hot as in cayenne range hot
Plant grows large – up to 34″ tall
Need big pot or can be transplanted in mixed container gardens
Seeds must be started early (8-10 weeks before last spring frost)
Transplant outdoors after frost passes
Grows fruit 98 days from transplant of seedling
Ripens 2 weeks later than other hot peppers
Plant full sun with well-drained soils

Matchbox Pepper
Capsicum annuum
Tiny, red peppers, decorative
Hot and must start early
Great plant size for hanging baskets
Start early; Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost
Transplant to hangers or ground 3 weeks after spring frost
Pick a sunny spot to keep growing
Fruity and hot flavorful

Couple Other Workshop Updates

Only 6 seats remain open for the first Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making Workshops in early December! See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site for details. The 2nd session for beginners on a Wednesday evening is starting to fill as well, but has more seats remaining than the first Saturday session. See dates below in photo.

Succulent Pumpkin Workshops and Demo’s

Thank you to all who had me come speak, demonstrate, hold sessions on the fabulous Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces! What fun we had – and I loved seeing everyone’s unique twists on the pumpkins, from strings of spooky lights added, to swan gourds fixed on the top. Each year, this creative centerpiece topic gets better. There’s still time if interested to hold a session with live succulents – just contact me soon.

As for November, my mind is brewing on new ideas for workshops, and of course, this is when I start to look forward to early December’s holiday workshops and custom wreath orders to follow the month of December. But there’s still plenty of time for that – we have the autumn season to enjoy – or to prepare for – as noted below!

This Weekend’s Weather

Oh, and did you hear? A possible Nor’easter here in Connecticut this weekend, really? Oh gosh, I have to run out and finish putting away all my corms, tubers, rhizomes, and plants which have been all staged in the garage to be inspected, treated, and stored. The work never ends for the garden lover.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

Banner Poster KB Dates 2018

 

New Weeknite Date: Tuesday, Oct 9th, Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces

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Just a heads-up.

We moved the Wednesday session to Tuesday to accommodate attendees’ requests.

Maybe a Tuesday is better for you too?!

We still have seats available at both workshops coming up in 3 weeks.

Here’s a flyer to share!

flyer succ pump 2018 Updated

We will have a mix of beautiful and fresh succulents for these workshops along with instructions on all. We hope you will join us. See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for workshop information, registration, and details on what you need to bring with you.

In the meantime, I’ve been potting spring bulbs (daffs and tulips) and putting them in a fridge to force in December, prep’ing materials for talks coming up at autumn fairs and markets, and getting ready for our workshops in Broad Brook, CT – while disassembling my home container gardens to store for the winter.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com