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

 

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.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0004

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.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0007

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.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0005

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.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0006

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.

 

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0003

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.

Fall Fair by C Testa Copywrite_0002

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

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!

winter fest_0001

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

One Week to Go!

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Wow, it has been a busy holiday month – and I am excited it continues to be so festive, fun, and creative!

Here’s a sample of items made by Container Crazy CT (yep – that is me) and samples of items made by our attendees this month at our workshops.

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Don’t you just love the horse above? Made by attendee, Dianne T. GREAT JOB!

I will finally be able to do my personal holiday gift shopping next week – which was never my style to wait until the last minute and enter stores void of products, tossed about in piles, or even damaged. But what makes up for that last minute world is the opportunities I have this month creating fresh quality items for orders and offering workshops where attendees make their own beautiful wreaths, kissing balls, and even horse wreaths (new option at this year’s 7th Annual Workshop.)

Smiles on attendees faces, festive feeling when a custom order is picked up, and greeting visitors at pop-up markets has been rewarding. So many people have told me they love what I have been creating and are enjoying my social media feeds, but I sure hope I’m not overdoing it. I guess when you have a passion, you just can’t stop talking about it.

I finally was able to decorate my own tree at our house yesterday. I took a little breather and I feel happy it is situated in the corner of my kitchen area. All lit up – the reflection in the windows is so beautiful. Topped with a burlap bow.

I’m sure everyone is busy as a beaver this week and next – or I should say as busy as an “ELF!” but if you happen to be in the area, please come visit me at the Pop-Up Vendor Event hosted by “Book Club Bookstore & More” on 100 Main St., Broad Brook, CT this Saturday, Dec 17th from 10 am to 3 pm. Don’t let the cold stop you. Swing by for a visit.

Also, there are some very interesting authors who will be there – visit the Bookstore’s web site or Facebook page to see. I’m intrigued and will have the bonus of meeting these wonderful authors and hearing their story. For the book readers in your life, this is a great shop to get books for adults and children. They also have great antique Christmas Cards and other art from local artists.

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Cathy Testa
Owner of “Cathy T’s Landcape Designs” and “Container Crazy CT”
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

For More Photos – Visit our WORKSHOPSCT.com site

How Do You Decorate for the Holidays?

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We just got through Halloween, and now, Thanksgiving Day is quickly approaching. After that it will be Christmas – as we all know!

Some of us do not like to be rushed into the holidays – and many don’t care for seeing the decorations a little too early at the retail stores either.

But because my work involves planning events and classes to learn how to dress up the home for the holidays with evergreen decor and more, my decorating starts rather early, and so does information about upcoming holiday crafting classes.

Former Posts on Holiday Decorating:

To see some of ContainerCrazy CT’s blog posts on holiday decorating, just go to the red search bar on the right side of this blog and type in Holidays.

You will see results of ideas for decorating pumpkins to using mesh ribbon to create holiday decor in and outside the home, and of course posts about the annual class held by Cathy Testa of ContainerCrazyCT on making evergreen creations in December. Look for photos there, or by going to the top of the blog page for Cathy T’s Classes menu.

Search Bar - Red on Right

Search Bar – Red on Right

The “5th Annual Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations” Class on December 6th, 2014

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

For those who have not attended this class before – Well, let’s just say it is a “Do not miss type of event” if you enjoy creating with FRESH greens — and a large variety of them – There will be 14 different types of evergreens to work with when you make your holiday decor item of choice.

Things you can make at this class:  

A large or regular size Kissing Ball to adorn your front steps, a Wreath to hang on your door, a beautiful long and wide Candle Centerpiece for your holiday table, or even a Mailbox Swag to drape over your mailbox with beautiful, colorful and fresh evergreens.

Getting Ready:

As I prepare for this event, I start going thru my holiday decor to dress up the house.  It includes tossing out old holiday decorations too – or donating them to Good Will, thus me tossing out an old tree! But the goal is to make the environment as festive as possible and to provide more space for our growing group of KB Makers in Cathy T’s classroom located in Broad Brook, CT.

Cathy T tosses old decorations out the window to prepare for new festive decorations!

Cathy T tosses old decorations out the window to prepare for new festive decorations!  Image courtesy of Bitstrips.

Getting Started Early:

In a way, offering this class makes me get started a little bit early for the holidays – it puts me in the spirit.  Just the act of taking out decorations made me want to open a bottle of wine!  And because it is offered early in the month of December, it will get you into the spirit too – your decor will be enjoyed all month long before the hussel and bussel of the holidays.

Four Week Countdown:

The class is about 4 weeks away, on Saturday, Dec 6th.  So, if you haven’t pre-registered, now is the time.  Join a great group of KB Makers, a festive environment, light snacks provided by attendees, and some festive beverages.  All while learning how to make your creation of choice with evergreens.

To Sign Up:

Visit www.ContainerCrazyCT.com and fill out the contact form or reply here at containercathy@gmail.com.

To confirm your seat after pre-registration, a check must be mailed for the item you wish to make at class by next week, so don’t delay.  Once registered, you receive full details.

Onto Thanksgiving:

In the meantime, I will be also focusing on preparing for Thanksgiving (only one week before this class), and a Container Gardening Design class I’m teaching at the Tolland/Vernon location for the Master Gardener’s Program.  The Nov 19th evening class is open to anyone.  To learn more and register, visit http://mastergardener.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/703/2014/08/AMG-F14final.pdf.

Note the MG Container Gardening Design class indicates a Sept date in the above PDF link, but it is on Nov 19th, Wednesday.

Thank you – Cathy Testa

KB Class Attendees working on their Kissing Balls with Evergreens

KB Class Attendees working on their Kissing Balls with Evergreens