Wreath and Kissing Ball Workshop on Sat, Dec. 12th


Flyer Sq Wreath

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for all the posts this week, but I feel the Claus energy and need to share this workshop as it is the last chance to attend one of my workshops this season until next year.

This Weekend:

Workshop is this weekend, Saturday, Dec. 12th, 2015 if you wish to make your own holiday creation with a wonderful mix of greenery including variegated holly, berried eucalyptus, yew, boxwood, juniper, red cedar, fir, coned cedar, and more.

To Attend:

To attend, text/call: 860-977-9473 or email: containercathy@gmail.com.

Cost: $37 pp + sales tax

Location: Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

Included: Greens, mechanics, hooks, and florist picks, etc. There are a few items you will need to bring based on item you elect to make (florist wire for wreath makers).

Options to make are a kissing ball, round or square wreath, candle centerpiece, candy cane wreath, swag, or garland.

Time: 11 am is official start time but if you prefer earlier in the day to have time to do your holiday shopping, please ask. It is doable.

Payment at class, but let us know if planning on attending for head-count. (No credit cards, sorry. Cash/check only.)

Happy Holidays,

Cathy Testa




Keeping Holiday Greens Fresh after Assembly


Hello Everyone,

The temperatures are getting a little colder here in Connecticut and the misty rain is making things outdoors a bit damp, but it will not dampen my spirits – In fact, it will make them even brighter.

As my big Kissing Ball and Holiday Evergreen Creations class is approaching – in only 3 days – I welcome the colder temps and feeling of winter – It also helps me to maintain the goodness of my specially ordered mixed evergreens for this weekend’s class.

This year, we have lots of newbies in my workshop. Some of them seem a little nervous, saying or texting things like, “I’m not crafty” and “I want to sit in the front of the class,” but I believe they will surprise themselves.

All my attendees end up making something amazing and they impress me every year with their talents as they decorate the kissing balls and wreaths. I learn from them as well.

FM Kissing Ball Red Ribbon

Kissing Ball with Bow Created at ContainerCrazyCT Classes

But after the class, they may be wondering, how do I keep everything fresh?

For starters, the cold weather really helps – and it best for them to keep their newly made holiday arrangements with fresh evergreens outside.

The natural moisture from misty winter rains and upcoming snow falls outdoors keeps the greens just right. Colder is better to retain needles.

But, the type of evergreen also determines how it will fare in the weather after being cut and inserted into the mechanics.

For example, fir and balsam trees cuttings last very well for a long time. Their needle retention is pretty good – that is why people like them for Christmas trees.

Keep Your Holiday Creations Outdoors

It is also important or helpful, but not mandatory, to keep your wreath or kissing ball out of direct sunlight and wind. The wind may dry out the needles somewhat faster than if located in a protected place outdoors.

You may hang your kissing ball indoors – like from a ceiling fan or chandelier, however, it will dry out faster in a warm house. If you really want to do that for décor during your festivities later in the month, a good tip is to hang it outside the weeks or days before so it stays cold, and move it to your indoor location a couple days before your holiday event.

And be sure to keep any holiday arrangements with fresh greens away from hot rooms heated by wood stoves. That will surely dry them out.

I also recommend any candle centerpieces are kept in the coldest room possible before you display them at your holiday dinner table.

Kissing Ball on VDay

Fake Red Carnations on a Regular Sized Evergreen Kissing Ball

I find my kissing ball, hanging outside by my steps lasts all the way into February with no problems at all. I remember one year, it was hanging there on Valentine’s Day covered with snow and red fake carnations but it was soooo beautiful even then.

Pick Them Fresh

It also helps if the greens are purchased or picked fresh of course, which is one of my goals every year for this workshop. Timing is everything.

If you get greens from your yard, wait until you are ready to arrange them to cut them from your branches, or do it the evening before if possible, and take them when it is cold outside (not warm). Also, I recommend you cut them before any major wet type freeze falls on leave leaves or needles – so be sure to watch your weather forecasts.

Boxwood Plain

Regular Size Boxwood Kissing Ball – Color Lasts a Long Time!

Other types of evergreens which last and have a nice color in mixed arrangements are juniper, incense cedar, white pine, and as noted above, fir and balsam. The white pine may dry out a little quicker than the others, I have found but no worries, all will be fine.

Hemlock branches are very pretty and they tend to arch which I like in container gardens outdoors for holidays, but they will loose their needles a little faster than other types.

Yew, with its dark green needles, is a great candidate and lasts. For some reason, it is not as popular but I think it looks marvelous and adds a layer of texture in the arrangements.

One new item this year at my workshop, which will be a surprise to my attendees unless they are reading this blog post today, is berried Eucalyptus. This has a beautiful blue coloring and texture – and I’m excited to share it with everyone on Saturday.

Boxwood is another excellent, quality green in arrangements for the holidays. One big benefit is they have no sticky sap and they maintain their dark color even if they get a little dry over time. I absolutely love the classic look boxwood cuttings give to kissing balls and wreaths.

Boxwood along with Pine may be soaked in water prior to your day of arrangement – if needed to re-hydrate, but often it is not required.

Holly can be a little tougher to work with because those spines are SHARP. And holly may turn black if it gets wet and then freezes, but I don’t see this situation too often.

By the way, this year, we have variegated Holly – wait til you see it – oh, la, la, fa, and la-lah. Its gorgeous.

One year, perhaps next year, we will add magnolia leaves to the mix – they have shiny tops and brown undersides to their leaves, and it adds a really nice texture to holiday evergreen arrangements, especially on wreaths.

There are anti-desiccant type products you may spray on your greens to help retain moisture, but to be honest, I don’t bother with that – and everything has lasted well for the holidays.

Boxwood Bow III

Bow on top of a Kissing Ball

Last but not least, cutting the ends of your greens from fresh branches with “good sharp pruners” is important. It not only helps with the insertion into your kissing ball mechanics, but allows water uptake if you set your greens in a bucket of water the night before or if you are using hydrated floral foam.

Timing is Everything

Timing is probably the most important of all (along with cold temperatures).

Everything is timed in the background – lots of busy growers, distributors, and buyers do everything they can to time the harvesting of greens at the right time to shorten the length it sits out – and if too early, that’s not good – if too late, not good either. It has to be just right.

I do my best and feel like Mrs. Kissing Ball Clause as I prepare all for holiday workshops – I feel this magical spirit as I get everything ready – maybe that is what drives everyone in the business of selling Christmas trees, making wreaths to sell at stores, and arranging workshops. They end up working outdoors in the cold or rain but keep on. We are those elves doing whatever it takes to make all merry.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa

Container Crazy CT has Gift Cards Available – See the Menu Bar above – A Great Gift Redeemable Towards Future Workshops!

We have many exciting new workshops in 2016 – See “February’s Floral Design Class” with two experts in the horticulture business of floral design. See “April’s Art class”, and also May for the “Container Gardening workshops” – All hands-on and fun, educational, convenient. Classes fill up early too – so gift cards are perfect to give to someone who will enjoy this type of event at Container Crazy CT located in East Windsor/Broad Brook, Connecticut. And they may be used, of course, for next year’s holiday workshops. We hope to hear from you! Cathy Testa

8 Holiday Recipes for Your Dog Too!


I utilize a pet sitter for my three cats (and plants during the summer) when traveling. It is a service of tremendous value to my family, so when Pricilla Liang of DogVacay Blog reached out to me regarding holiday recipes for pets – and I realized DogVacay is also providing a valuable service by coordinating pet sitters with pet lovers around the country – the timing of this guest post by DogVacay could not be more appropriate.

As we have our treasured pets surround us in a room filled with holiday guests, we must also remember to keep an eye on our pets too because they are tempted to eat or sneak human treats. And also to keep them away from eating evergreens with red berries, such as Holly, used to decorate all around your home.

The evergreens or wrong food can make pets ill — and so, here are some alternatives by DogVacay Blog in their article titled: “8 Holiday Recipes for Your Dog Too!” written by Caroline on their site.

With written request and permission by Pricilla Liang, the Community Outreach Coordinator of DogVacay, it is a “guest post” I’m glad to share with my audience.

DogVacay is located in Santa Monica, CA.  They offer approved hosts of pet sitters in many areas around the country, including Hartford, CT.  You can find the link to the Hartford host site at the bottom of this post.

8 Holiday Recipes for Your Dog Too! 

by Caroline (of DogVacay)


(source: agcrescue.org)

The holidays give us more than enough reason to spend time with our families and eat amazing food.  Your dog will certainly be a part of the festivities, and he’ll patiently sit by the table as the humans eat their traditional dishes of a beautiful roasted turkey and gravy covering everything in sight. However, there are foods that you shouldn’t offer your pets, no matter how powerful their puppy dog stare is. To make this wonderful time of love a special one for your best friend, we’ve come up with recipes that serve as “doggy alternatives” to the usual holiday dishes you’ll see. This way, every member of the family can be spoiled with the spirit of the season, and it will be completely worth it to see how happy your pooch is from the feast prepared just for him!


(source: bestbullysticks.com)

1. Turkey Smorgasbord in a Bowl

Ingredients: Skinless turkey pieces, cooked oatmeal, cubed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy; Prep time: 30 minutes

When that big bird sits prettily on your table, you’ll have everyone’s mouths watering, not excluding your pets. Luckily, with such a large bird to share, you will most likely have enough leftovers to prepare a little Thanksgiving feast for your pooch. We’ve found a recipe that creates a hefty bowl of goodness, and advise that you omit the gravy if you want to lessen the fat content. Also, be sure to remove any turkey skin still on the bird. We guarantee that your dog will gobble-gobble it up, and don’t blame us for the excessive drooling!


(source: kitchendaily.com)

2. Stuffing Dog Treats

Ingredients: Whole wheat flour, plain gluten-free breadcrumbs, dried parsley, pure pumpkin, eggs, organic turkey baby food, warm water; Prep time: 1 hour

No Thanksgiving is complete without good ol’ stuffing. Since regular stuffing that your family enjoys contain ingredients like onions and garlic (which are harmful to pets), try out this alternative! Watch this video tutorial on how to make soft, cookie-like treats that will stuff your pup full of holiday stuffing! Your pup will be thanking their lucky stars they have a mama who takes the time to prepare such yummy goodies for them!


(source: atasteofkoko.com)

3. Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with Mashed Potato Icing

Ingredients: Eggs, honey, olive oil, canned pumpkin, cinnamon powder, Amaranth flour, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, fresh cranberries; Prep time: 1 hour

You’ll be blown away by this unique, pup-friendly combination of traditional holiday favorites. Although you might not find the combination particularly scrumptious, we promise these flavors will come together to transform into a tasty bonanza for your pet. Follow this recipe and as an extra treat, top the muffins off with fluffy mashed potatoes. We won’t judge you if you go ahead and take a bite… or two.


(source: sheknows.com)

4. Dognog

Ingredients: Plain low fat, organic yogurt, organic baby food, eggs, water; Prep time: 5 minutes

A holiday gathering simply isn’t complete without a hefty pour of eggnog. While your pup shouldn’t sample the adult eggnog, we’ve discovered a pup-friendly recipe that will have your pup barking for more! Now your pup can join in with dognog, a safe alternative that you can learn how to make here. If you really want to spoil Fido, a banana slice as garnish will add an extra kick.


(source: pattywhackdogs.com)

5. Pu(m)pkin Pie

Ingredients: Canned pumpkin, plain low-fat yogurt, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, unsweetened applesauce, water; Prep time: 30 minutes

Pumpkin pie is a wonderful dessert to present to your loved ones, but as the slices go around, make sure that your pooch stays away! The filling is actually unsafe for our furry friends. Instead use this pawesome recipe for pup-kin pie that will totally satisfy your dog’s sweet tooth.


(source: dogtreatkitchen.com)

6. Doggy Candy Canes

Ingredients: All purpose flour, powdered milk, baking powder, warm water, chicken bouillon, eggs, food coloring; Prep time: 2.5 hours

Candy is a big no-no for our canine friends, but we can still get into the spirit of the season by putting in some labor of love to produce amazing candy canes made just for your pup. There’s nothing better to your dog than homemade meals prepared by his parent, so get to it! You can find the recipe here.


(source: sippycupmom.com)

7. Christmas Dog Bark

Ingredients: Bacon, cheddar cheese, carob chips, crunchy peanut butter; Prep time: 25 minutes

How can you possibly go wrong with bacon and cheese? This simple combo will make your pup’s heart soar into holiday feast heaven. Check out this perfect alternative to the peppermint bark here, and prepare to wow the paws off your pooch!


(source: en.allexperts.com)

8. Puppy Meatloaf

Ingredients: Ground beef, cottage cheese, dry milk powder, wheat germ, oatmeal bread, cooked oatmeal, cooked brown rice

Meatloaf is a family tradition you won’t want to leave Fido out of. Even if the delicious one you made for your family isn’t fit for your pup’s palate, we’ve wrangled a recipe that’s 100% pup friendly! This beautiful arrangement of meat and carbs will be the ultimate holiday dinner for your pooch. The recipe is pretty straightforward, but it has everything that is safe and delicious for those furry chops. During this season of giving, gift your pup a warm loaf of drool-worthy satisfaction.

For more information regarding this above guest post, visit the DogVacay Blog at:
To find a host located in our region coordinated by DogVacay Blog,
Reminder:  All pictures, articles, stories, and information above are subject to copyrights.  Permission was granted to post this above article as a guest post here on “Container Crazy Cathy ” by DogVacay’s Coordinator.
Happy Holidays Everyone!
Cathy Testa