Holiday Gift Cards and New Workshops

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Gift Cards and New Workshops

Hello everyone,

‘Tis the Season’ to get started for your upcoming holiday fun – So, here’s a heads-up on new items and activities I am super excited to share with you today. Container Crazy CT has new workshops being offered in 2016, gift cards available for the holidays, and more.

New Gift Cards

Container Crazy CT has new “Gift Cards” available for purchase. They are redeemable towards workshops, onsite consultations, container garden gifts, or seasonal plants. Perfect for the friends and family members in your life who enjoy DIY classes, plants, gardens, containers and art fun. The card has a beautiful holiday theme cover with a colorful container garden photo.

Greet Card Gift Card

A beautiful card with container garden photo

Returning Guest Artist

Laura Sinsigallo of timefliesbylauralie is returning as a guest speaker in 2016. We had such a wonderful time learning how to make her unique and eclectic wind chimes the last time she was here and she enjoyed teaching our group. As you know, Laura Sinsigallo has many talents from paintings to cute figurines for special holidays – she is a very creative person. Her program will be in April 2016 and the special Art Work to be made in class will be announced very soon.

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting - Out guest artist in April

Laura Sinsigallo with her painting – Out guest artist in April

Floral Design – New!

Mandy Mayer of jemshorticulture.com will be our new speaker at our 2016 workshops. I am so excited to have her join our list of guest artists. She designs beautiful bouquets and floral arrangements for weddings and special events. Her business is called “JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design” located in Stafford Springs, and you won’t want to miss this workshop. We plan to have her program offered in February 2016. Stay tuned for details.

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer

Photo by M. Mayer, Floral Designer located in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

Kissing Ball Class

The first class is full, the supplies are ordered, and the workshop space is being adorned! So excited to have NEW and REPEAT attendees coming. If you were unable to sign up for this class, mini workshops are offered during the week following the first workshop date of 12/5. And don’t forget to bring your own florist wire and decor to adorn your balls, wreaths, etc. Looking forward to seeing you!

Special Orders for Wreaths or Kissing Balls

If you would like a handmade wreath or kissing ball, please don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t forget to visit my Pinboards and Instagram pages for inspirational ideas. It’s time to get your jingle on.

See you soon,

Cathy Testa
Enhance Your Outdoor Surroundings…
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

How to Make Kissing Balls for the Upcoming Holidays

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Container Crazy CT offers several classes and workshops year-round where Nature with Art are combined.

There are several classes offered every season, such as the annual Container Gardening Workshop in May and a Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Workshop in December.

And this weekend is the Storing Tropical Plants Demo where steps will be demonstrated on how to overwinter plants such as Canna, Elephant Ears, Angel’s Trumpets, and banana plants.

During the months between the spring and winter, special guests artists are invited to hold various hands-on style classes with the the mission to educate, share, and create – and most importantly, have fun with friends.

On the drop down menu under the “Nature with Art Class Programs” from the top of this blog, you will find descriptions for each workshop scheduled in 2015 and upcoming in 2016.

Starting Early – Kissing Ball Workshop Dates

We realize that many of us don’t like to start thinking about Christmas or the Holidays until at least early November, but when you have workshops to setup, some things need to be ordered in October so we are ready when December arrives to make our wonderful holiday creations. This is why places like Hobby Lobby are stuffed with Christmas crafts already, where you may find decor to add to your kissing ball or wreath at the workshop.

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KISSING BALL & HOLIDAY CREATIONS WORKSHOPS

The December upcoming hands-on workshops have been scheduled. Seats are limited for the first big workshop date of December 5th, so register early. We gather to make beautiful holiday creations with a mix of fresh evergreens and socialize. It is a fun day and a great way to make your own kissing ball just in time to place it on your porch or hang it in a hallway.

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See How It’s Done

Kissing Balls Shown on TV by Cathy T. See how they are really fun to make and require a bit of time, but they are beautiful and unique when hand-made with your special touches – and the fresh evergreens smell wonderful – not to mention, when you hang them outdoors, the birds like to perch on them – so pretty when snow is falling upon the kissing balls. You can find steps on how to make Kissing Balls on the web, or watch the video linked above, but when you gather with a group – it makes the whole process extra special because you are with a large group of enthusiastic attendees, the mechanics and amazing greens are here for you, and you learn from Cathy T and attendees with their own unique ideas, such as adding lights to the balls. If you live in East Windsor or surrounding towns in Connecticut, come on down and join us – we have attendees all the way from New Haven joining us annually.

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Open Studio Days and Mini Session

Additionally, there are other opportunities to craft away and make beautiful round kissing balls with a wide mix of evergreens to adorn your home indoors and out. An Open Studio week is offered where you may schedule your own appointment to make an evergreen creation at a time convenient for you. Lastly, we have a Mini Session on December 12th. We also make square or round wreaths, candle centerpieces, and mail box swags at these workshops – you pick the one you want to make.

How to Register

All you need to do is fill out the Contact Form. Cost is $30-$45 (+ sales tax) based on item you select to make, and pre-payment is required. Once you sign-up here, you will receive the 2015 price list and details with instructions. Location of the workshops is East Windsor, Connecticut.

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CALENDAR OF WORKSHOPS

For a handy view by month, click on the CALENDAR menu.

An Attendee Listens to Cathy T's Instructions at the KB Workshop

An Attendee Listens to Cathy T’s Instructions at the KB Workshop

ARTISTS ARE INVITED TO TEACH

Artists are invited to teach and a page shows the Featured Artists for the upcoming season. If you are an artist utilizing any aspect of plants, nature, or the environment in your designs and would like to introduce your product along with DIY instructions for Container Crazy CT’s attendees, please contact her at 860-977-9473 or containercathy@gmail.com to arrange a date and discuss your ideas.  All classes are taught by professionals and artisans with years of experience to share with the interested attendees.

We hope you will join us.

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

Container Gardens with Evergreens – Spice Up Your Space for the Holidays

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I’ve worked on cold and windy days to install festive holiday container gardens with evergreens and decor this time of the year – but I have to say, yesterday was probably the coldest day ever experienced outdoors while doing so.

Checking the weather beforehand wasn’t on my list – I knew it was going to rain today, so I thought, I need to get this done first thing on Monday.

The truck was loaded up with evergreens and decor supplies by sun up. Sometimes, having an early start is nice because all is quiet before shops open up for the day.

So off I went.  Within the first 45 minutes tho – my hands were frozen.  It was much colder than I expected. It was like 22 degrees out!

But because I enjoy the process of installing container gardens for the holidays, ignoring the tips of my finger tips getting cold in my not-warm-enough gloves was somewhat easy – at first.

As the owner of a business showed up to unlock his store, he said, “You picked a terrible day to do this. It’s freezing out.”

So, I responded with, “It is suppose to rain tomorrow, and it is time for the seasonal change up, so here I am!”

He agreed, indicating this is his favorite container of the seasonal change outs, and how he is looking forward to the holidays.

After completing his two big barrels at his store front, I went for a coffee and returned to the house for warmer socks, gloves, a neck warmer, and warmer ski like hat – it was THAT cold out.

Back out I went and finished two other jobs, taking a lunch break in between to – yes, warm up again.

Luckily – these are local clients – for which I am very thankful for their business.

Check them out – The Sweet Spot Bakery in Broad Brook, CT offers freshly baked cupcakes, cakes, and more – and they are yummy. In fact, I had them make a kissing ball cake for my latest class – it was much fun as everyone didn’t realize it was a cake at first.

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Baker (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Bakery of Broad Brook, CT (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

Then there’s the huge and popular package store, Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, on Rt 140 in East Windsor, CT.  When I looked around at the supply of wine and beer, during my warm up breaks in the store yesterday, I thought – “Gosh, what Leslie and his staff has done for this place is amazing.”  They offer a huge selection of wine and beer — and they hold holiday festivities during the year, like wine tastings, and several important fundraising benefits to help raise funds for community efforts.

Barrels in-front of Joe's Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

Barrels in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

After finishing the decor at Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, it was off to a local hairdresser’s shop, next to the new TRX exercise studio, which is another small local business to support. The salon is called Carol Jean’s Hair Salon at 144 North Road, East Windsor, CT. Michelle is a great person and offers local salon services.

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean's Hair Salon

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean’s Hair Salon

All of these business owners tell me the festive container gardens outside their businesses adds a welcoming environment – and their customers really enjoy seeing them each season, and talking about them with the business owners.

Container Gardens outside of storefronts and businesses lets everyone know – customers are important to their small businesses, and they want to share the holiday happiness too!

If you are interested in an install job for container gardens, call me this week while supplies last.  This is the best time of year to dress up your outdoor store front environment, whether it be a container garden stuffed with greens and decor or a holiday kissing ball or wreath hung on your front door. Tis’ the Season!!

His and Her's Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

His and Her’s Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

And, by the way, I’m super glad I went out yesterday, despite the freezing cold, instead of today. I hear the ice is slick out there today – black ice, my husband warned. He already e-mailed me from his office to say be careful stepping out on to the driveway today. It is slick.

I think I’ll wait for the sun to come out and warm up everything – this time!

Cathy Testa

http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Rudolph Delivers Fresh Evergreens for Making Holiday Kissing Balls at Cathy T’s Class

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Hello fellow blog followers, friends, clients, and new visitors!

A New Variety at Tomorrow Class - Golden Arborvitae!

Golden Arborvitae Used in Kissing Balls – A New Variety This Year!

Tomorrow marks the date of Cathy T’s “5th Annual Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Class!

It’s hard to believe, but this class has been running for five years now.

It all started when an idea popped into my head to hold a class on making holiday kissing balls, wreaths, and centerpieces using fresh evergreens after helping a friend assemble her kissing balls at her home.

Each year, this class is coordinated with a mix of excitement, anticipation, and fears.

What do I mean about fears?

Well, when working in the plant world – because plants have the potential to be affected by any number of unexpected surprises, there is always that little bit of fear that something could go wrong.

Just yesterday, I shared a link about a California tree grower experiencing a huge loss of holiday grown trees due to drought. Christmas trees take many years to reach the perfect stage for sale during the holidays, so image his disappointment when 500 trees were so badly affected by lack of rain fall, they could not be offered for sale this season. This is something he really had no control over because his trees were suffering from the forces of Mother Nature.

But, most people in the horticulture trade learn how to roll with the punches, solve any unanticipated – or unwanted bumps in the road and move on quickly. And usually, they never give up either.

On the day I drove to my suppliers to finally pick up my order of fresh mixed evergreens  – a day highly anticipated and enjoyed every year around this time – a blip happened.

When I arrived at their door, they told me a big portion of my evergreens order was not in yet.

Cathy yelling "something is missing here!" Photo Source: Bitstrips

Cathy T is surprised to learn not all is in yet. (Photo Source: Bitstrips)

My reaction was not pure panic, because it was one of those – here we go moments, but disappointment set in. I have things to do and get done, and this would be a slight delay to deal with.

I thought, “I guess this is my unexpected storm this go around?”

As I questioned why and how quickly they could resolve this blip, suddenly, out of no where, a very pleasant gentleman showed up by my side.

I had never seen him before and he reassured me all would be fine. He promised to make a special delivery to my house the very next morning.

When I questioned him on the time of the delivery, he said they would be there by 8:30 am.

Timing was important to me, just like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, a great deal of planning goes into my special day – so I didn’t want this little storm to delay the gift of greens used in my class by all the Kissing Ball Makers.

Thankfully, the next morning, one of his elves did show up, as promised — on time.

“Phew.” I thought.  All looked great and it was onto my next to do’s to prepare for the class activities.

As I was working, I started thinking, “Who was “that guy” yesterday?”

As I mentioned, I had never seen him before in all the five years I have driven to their place to pickup my evergreens. Was he an owner? Is he a new worker?

He certainly was very attentive and saved the day.

Was he my Rudolph?

Perhaps!! To me he was at that moment – he made sure the delivery took place no matter what it took – typical of horticulture people – especially this time of year.

So, long story short —

Making beautiful holiday kissing balls with fresh evergreens will happen yet again, despite those fears or blips which may happen from time to time in the plant world.

Snowmen Wine Stoppers - You know what these are for!

Snowmen Wine Stoppers – You know what these are for!

We will be surrounded by holiday decor, warmed by appetizers and holiday cheer, and share our day with enthusiastic kissing ball makers.

Dark and Classic Boxwood Used in KBs

Dark and Classic Boxwood Used in KBs

You may search the question: “How to make kissing balls?” via Google on the Internet, and you will find many videos and information on the how to’s, but you don’t get the holiday magic which happens in Container Crazy CT’s holiday workshop each year, unless of course, you are a fortunate attendee.

See you all soon new and advanced Kissing Ball Makers!

Ho, Ho, Ho…

Affectionately,

Your Pseudo Mrs. Claus

Cathy T - Photo by Bitstrips

Cathy T – Photo by Bitstrips

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

Early Planning is Part of the Process…

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Early planning is part of the horticulture process.  Plants must be ordered in the winter months for spring deliveries, and evergreens must be ordered in autumn for winter pickups.

And, as much as you try to plan ahead, there will always be things you don’t expect which may cause your plans to not go exactly according to plan, but you adjust, correct, and move on.

On my recently submitted evergreens order for the upcoming December class on making holiday creations with fresh evergreens, there is a disclaimer on the bottom of the confirmation form which reads:

“Prices are from current inventory and WILL change due to availability, season, and any other act of God.”

Can you imagine if this disclaimer was on your plant tag or pot when you buy a plant at a garden center?  Imagine the response!

But I so get what this company is saying – and, they say it like it is.

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee!

Large Full Size Kissing Ball created by an Attendee at Cathy T’s Annual Winter Class

My planning began this month for a Cathy T Class being offered in December.  It is the 5th Annual Kissing Balls and Evergreen Holiday Creations Class, and it is fun, popular, and worth every bit of planning.

This post is to provide my blog followers with a heads-up that the class is on the calendar.  If you wish to sign-up, which is recommended to do early for seats fill up quickly, see the menu bar above, Cathy T Classes.

When you click on the menu’s option, a drop down list appears with two options for this winter class.  One is the “contact form” to sign up, the other provides more details about the class with photos of the items you can make.

As for now, this is all you need to know if you are interested in signing up today to save the date on your holiday calendar.

As soon as you are “in,” more information on the amazing variety of evergreens is provided along with complete details about this class scheduled on December 6th, 2014 – the first Saturday in December.

By the way, we have three “premium” evergreens added this year, which are new for this year’s class!  As well as the usual mix of eleven other types of FRESH evergreens.

That is right – a total of 14 varieties of beautiful evergreens to use when you make your holiday creation as an attendee at this Cathy T Class.

You won’t find this elsewhere, I guarantee it – Unless, of course, there is an act of God.

Cathy Testa
http://www.cathytesta.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
containercathy@gmail.com

Cathy Testa's Vision of the Future - Photo by Bitstrips

Cathy Testa’s Vision of the Future – Photo by Bitstrips

Learning More at Evergreen Holiday Creations Classes

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And I was the learner!

Holding classes on how to make Evergreens Creations has been fun, challenging, exciting, nerve racking, and more – but I didn’t expect that I would learn so much from the attendees in addition to teaching them.

Over time, every year, as I continue to expand this class in December, I find I learn something new – whether it is how one makes a bow a special way, or how a person may consider using a new tool for their creations, or in one case recently, the husband of an attendee brought along some heavy wire to show me how it can be used for hooks in the kissing balls.

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Here it is in the above photo.  It is actually used for electric fencing.  It is easy to cut, bend, and very strong.  So next year, I will take the suggestion and try to find this material to be used as hooks for the Evergreen Holiday Kissing Balls.  He gave me a couple pieces to test out, so we will see.  I did like how easy it was to bend, and it beats cutting wire coat hangers and straightening them out.

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Skip and his wife, Cindy, attended an Open Studio Day this week where anyone can sign up by appointment to make an Evergreen Creation in my classroom with my instruction and theirs (LOL).  When Cindy asked if her husband could tag along, especially because of the driving in the snow that day, I said, “Sure.”

And I also learned something else by having a hubby here with a first-time attendee.

He was available to help Cindy with the snips and cuttings of various fresh evergreens.  And as you can see, he did that with a big smile.

I had an “Ah-ha moment.”  Maybe husbands should attend my classes to help their wives. Former and ongoing attendees know by the end of class, your hands can be sticky and worn out from all the tips needed to make a kissing ball.

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This time of year, I end up with cuts, sore spots, and difficult to remove sap on my hands from all the various evergreens used in my classes and for custom orders.

My hands get tired.  Maybe that is why I have such a darn hard time trying to make bows using the old fashioned twist and turn method for bow making.

Cindy told me she has made beautiful bows for many of her friends in years past, but due to some troubles with her hands, she no longer can make them that way.  I have difficulty with my hands too when doing the floral technique of bow making with the pinch, twist, turn method.  I never seem to be able to keep in tight in my hands either.

So during my classes, I share a trick on how to make bows with a simpler method.  This is what the bow ends up looking like.

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It is suitable, and you can make two, then bunch them together to make it a bigger bow if you want to, or just create the one – but they ain’t as elaborate as they could be or should be.

I especially love the BIG huge bows on the Ellen Degeneres show.  I just twittered her this morning to ask she show us how they make those gorgeous bows which sit on top of the big gift boxes she displays during her 12-Day Giveaways.  Like yah, I doubt she will find my request in her millions of tweets.  But that would be sweet if she did – after all she always helps those in need – Help Ellen, I can’t make a big pretty bow.  Well, of course, there are bigger things in life to worry about – but this time of year, big bows are a must-do, right?  Ellen, won’t you show us how you make those bows on the show?  Pleeeaase.

In the photo above, you can see I also create tails for the bottom of the bow.  Attaching them to a green florist pick with the wire is helpful and then I just insert it into the bottom of the big ball at the end.  This really finishes off the look.

During my annual Kissing Ball Making Class, one of my regular attendees, Maryse, is an excellent bow maker.  So I asked her if she could help some of the attendees make bows which she gladly did for me.  She also tried out a bow making device, but found it cumbersome, so for now, I’m still struggling with bow making – but I will say this – I think the mesh ribbons are way easier to use to create big fluffy bows.

The mesh ribbon material seems to puff easily no matter what – so I have been using this more often.  Yesterday, I created a big fully bow with it for a mailbox evergreen swag.  Photos on that later.  See my earlier post on how to use mesh ribbon three different ways.

Mesh Ribbon Projects_0019

Everyone seems to like my bubble bunch with mesh ribbon hung at my door.  An attendee told me she was going to make one at her house.  I forgot to ask her to send me pictures of it when done – I want to see – and perhaps she will add something new to it to share.

While Cindy and Skip were here making a kissing ball, we talked a lot about farming, property in our town, common friends we know in the area, and more –  but this was the first time we met.  And ironically, they live on the street I grew up on.  When I asked about where their house was exactly on the street, I told them – Oh yes, I know that house – you put out two big pots at the end of your driveway every year.  I absolutely love them because the plants are flush and full – and colorful.  “Coleus, right?” I asked.

Cindy responded, “Yes.”  I have been admiring those two big pots for many years.  Sometimes, I have slowed down to see the plants, and always thought it was Coleus.  So you see – it was fate.  She found me via my postings on my classes, they came here, we met and now I see a long-lasting friendship forming.

By the way, there is another session today scheduled at 2:00 pm to learn how to make a kissing ball.  You around?  Want to join us? Just call, or call for a specific time at your convenience for a personal appointment.

Thank you, Cathy Testa

Winter Gardening Fun – From Making Kissing Balls to Evergreen Holiday Creations!

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It is only four more weeks until Cathy T’s 4th annual Evergreen Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Class.

Photo Creation via Bitstrips

Photo Creation via Bitstrips

At this class, you have the option to make either an Evergreen Kissing Ball (hung outdoors during the holidays), wreath, mailbox swag, or candle centerpiece.  The class gets filled with a group of wonderful attendees ready to have some holiday crafting fun before the shopping and other preps begin this year.

This is a great way to dress up your outdoors with some fresh greenery and add some decorating features during the winter! Yes, nothing is prettier than snow on beautiful evergreen creations.  When birds stop by to visit, it is even prettier.  And when you have holiday guests over, and they step outside for some fresh air, they will have something very pretty to admire – made by you.

Photo by Cathy Testa

Photo by Cathy Testa

It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but I’m already excited for the holidays – because of this annual event.  Nothing is nicer than the smell of fresh fragrant evergreens in your surroundings, knowing you created it, and you got it done early so you can enjoy it for the entire month of December and up through after the holidays – evergreens outdoors last well into early February.

There are only a few more seats remaining, so if you are local to my area (East Windsor/Broad Brook, CT), and are interested, please sign up soon.

Evergreen Kissing Balls by C Testa

See more information HERE or contact Cathy Testa at containercathy@gmail.com.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

From Spark to Tradition

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I have a friend who has a tradition of raising turkeys every year for a butchering in time for Thanksgiving.  Well, it is actually her husband and his friends partaking in the butchering, but because she and I walk together in the mornings, I’ve witnessed the turkeys in the pen and the pile of feathers that follow when their annual event occurs.

One year, her dog sat quietly on their lawn witnessing the slaughter and cut up as the gang of guys did their work, and I said to my friend, “Gee, I wonder what your dog is thinking?”  She responded, “…I’m glad I’m not a turkey.”

I never asked her though, how did this whole thing get started?  They don’t live on a farm per say, but this tradition has grown so much at their home, to the point, soon they will need a bigger turkey pen.

Because I grew up on a farm, and my Dad butchered cows, this whole process is not repulsive to me.  At the age of 8 or 9, somewhere around there, I carried cow hearts and tongues in buckets, yes, buckets from the barn to the basement, where my Mom would be there grinding meat and packaging the butchered treasures for storage in the big basement freezer.

I crave freshly butchered meat now more than ever.  Store bought meat never does it for me.  So last year, I purchased a 1/4 of a cow from a local butcher.  The butcher was introduced to me by way of the turkey butchering friends!  Who would ever figure we’d be doing that, …going in on a cow?  Not surprising, but I would not have thought this would become a tradition with my walking partner.  Ironically, we walk right past the cow candidates on our walking route too.  How funny and ironic is that?  Sometimes, I’ll jokingly point to a big cow in the pasture and say, “You are next on our list!”  LOL.

Of the packages of butchered meat, the one I seem to enjoy the most is the ground beef.  The color is so red and fresh, I think I actually drooled once upon opening it.  I told my friend it is vampire-ish.  It brings me back to the memory of juicy meat, fresh from our family farm, and I feel that tradition of my childhood when carrying pieces of meat from the butchering barn to the processing station returning.  With a large family of eight, I’m sure it was the economical way to go as well.  Eventually my Dad had a butcher do the dirty work but we always had fresh meat on hand.

But how this tradition started for my family, or my friends’ family with the turkeys, is a mystery.  Traditions seem to be created over time, starting with an initial spark and leading to a grander event.

For me, my friends, family and some gardening enthusiasts, a tradition sparked at my home three years ago.  It did not include butchering an animal, but we do cut up quite a few evergreens!  I decided to teach a class on how to make evergreen kissing balls for the holidays.  Kissing balls are popular in Canada where my parents are from, and where many of my French Canadian relatives live today.

When we were kids, we headed up north almost every Christmas or New Years as a holiday tradition.  And when visiting Aunts and Uncles’ homes, I always saw kissing balls hung in-front of their doorways.  They hang them in front of local restaurants and hotels too.  When snow is clinging to them, it adds a special feeling of remembering the cold, festive days of a Canada visit.  In fact, you start seeing the evergreen kissing balls when approaching Vermont on the route up north.

These images of evergreen kissing balls dangling to welcome visitors is part of what sparked a thought that I should offer a class on how to make them, plus one of my favorite cousins had asked me to help her make some, so the combo of the two lead to my class.

KB at Spa Restaurant

KB at Spa Restaurant

My “how to make evergreen kissing balls class” turned out to be a very festive afternoon with the ladies, whom I refer to today, in year three of holding this class, as the “Kissing Ball Makers.”  That name was also a spark upon the suggestion of one of the attendees when she replied to an email about it.

Last year, I exclaimed to the group,”I’m going to hold this class every year for as many years as I can.”  And the group returns here on 12/1 this year to keep the tradition going strong.  It is my #1 favorite event for the holidays.

Holding it right after Thanksgiving subsides and the holiday decorating season begins is just about right.  The Kissing Ball Makers relax, chatter, and create before the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations start.  It is a bit of “me time” for the Kissing Ball Makers, and they take home a beautiful and festive evergreen creation of their own style.

During our creation process, we aren’t holding our iPhones (although we use them to check out our Holiday pin boards for inspiration!)  Here is mine:http://pinterest.com/cathytesta/holiday/, plus our hands are busy stuffing evergreens or sharing our favorite holiday appetizers without anyone having to do the clean up after.

In fact, I even enjoy that tradition of cleaning up the classroom floor the next day, finding tinsel and glitter here and there scattered around, some empty cocktail classes, and the sound in my mind of all the laughter and fun from the prior day’s event.

If you didn’t get a chance to get in on the sign-up list for this year’s class, which includes new items to make such as wreaths and mailbox evergreen swags, your next best alternative is to tune in on November 27th, Tuesday, at 12:30 pm, Channel 8 to see me return as a guest speaker on the CT Style program on WTNH.com, or watch it on the web right after it airs.  See http://www.wtnh.com/subindex/ct_style.

KBs in-front of house in Burke, VT.

In the meantime, I have to ask, “What is your favorite holiday tradition, and how did it spark?”

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, Cathy T