How many Fridays until Christmas?

Leave a comment

Do you ever see that question posted on Facebook about how many Fridays until Christmas?

I have recently, and I’ll be honest, I will think, “Ugh. I don’t want to see those types of posts yet.”

However, I am guilty as charged of making my first holiday related social media post yesterday, when I announced the 2018 dates for my Annual Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making workshops.

They are December 1st and December 5th, 2018, which is only 12 Fridays until our 9th Annual Event.

greens by Cathy T_0014

All of the links to register and confirm are on WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And guess what, the minute it was posted, people signed up. This event fills quickly every year, so please, if interested, visit the site and get your name on the list.

And that is ALL I will say on that for Christmas and the holidays for now.

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

On to autumn, as noted in the prior post, is all about making Succulent Topped Pumpkins and other Autumn inspired decor.

We have seats remaining for the first session date on October 6th and many seats available on the weeknight session date, October 10th.

Details on our autumn workshops are here. We make gorgeous tabletop centerpieces using real or faux pumpkins with fresh, live succulents. Come join the creativity of our workshops!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT 06016

First Cool Fall Day – Get Ready to Craft

Leave a comment

Yesterday, my sniffles and sneezes would not stop. It got to the point my eyes were red from rubbing them. Yes, the cool fall air arrived and it made me go into fall allergy mode.

But today, it is going to be warmer and humid. It seems mother nature and the fact hurricane winds hitting the North and South Carolina coasts are shuffling up the air here in CT, it will be a bit warmer today, but still wet.

Most of us are probably looking forward to fall cool air and are ready to welcome it. But with that comes some gardening chores, like disassembly of our patio pots before frost in October, and putting things away. Alas, it is time to take down my many tomato plants in my pots and grow bags on the driveway, but it was a good season for eating them. I am thankful for a good summer season.

For me, because I have so many plants outside to take care of and put away, I will start slowly and keep working on it every day until October gives us a fall freeze. To try to do it all in one day is too difficult for me – now that I’m in my 50’s. But it is always worth it – my deck was “jungle style” with many tropical plants and my bigger pots in the yard have huge plants in them right now to take down but all is so rewarding – it gives me so much joy and relaxation to watch my plants grow and provide a living environment all around us in the summer, I just love it. I think the animals, birds, and bees love it too.

In between these fall gardening “chores”, I also get crafty and have been showing some prototypes on my Instagram feed of succulent hanging dish plates (a new trend spotted on Instagram), and I made a Spooky Halloween Terrarium prototype (kits are for sale now), and I also been playing around with decoupage to put natural leaves picked from the yard’s plants on white pumpkins, and I even tried out some turkey feathers on another small white pumpkin, which I thought gave that pumpkin a “spooky” feel to it. It has been fun getting crafty as we wait for the full fall weather to be here permanently.

In addition, I want to pot up some bulbs (daffs and tulips) and chill them to have them forced early in the spring for inside the home. They bulbs are stocked in the nurseries now and it is time to pick them up. You may plant them outdoors now anytime until the ground freezes. But I also want to test them out in small pots, put in the fridge for the required weeks, and then take out to grow and bloom in early spring or even in late winter. I will let you know how that goes. If successful, that could be another new workshop to offer next fall season.

Mothers Day Copywrite CCC_0001

Despite the humid heat of this summer, which was brutal and increased the critters on plants (ugh), I did finish up a big project I really wanted to do this season, which was stain the boards inside my greenhouse which support the clear panels of the roof. This was a big job. I would start early in the day like 6 am, and stop by 11 am because of the summer heat being too much. Imagine how much hotter it is on a ladder staining at ceiling level in a greenhouse. I must be crazy – but it is done and now the wood will be preserved for more years to come in my most favorite place in the world.

Succ Pumpkins copywrite Container Crazy CT_0001

So, back to autumn and fall, here are some things coming up:

New Events and Workshops

A demonstration at Ellington’s Farmers Market on Sept 29th – Look for me in the small round gazebo. I am usually in the larger gazebo but a band will be there and of course, all their amazing vendors are at the market, and lots of pumpkins, I am sure. To learn more, visit their website.

Two workshops at my Broad Brook, CT location on Succulent Topped Pumpkins on Oct 6 and 10th – Sign-up now. We have seats still available but the first workshop is starting to fill up. I am SO LOOKING forward to this workshop. We will be making our gorgeous centerpieces again using real and faux pumpkin with live beautiful succulents. Each year, the tips and tricks get better – This is year 3 of offering this seasonal workshop. $15 to register, plants for sale at the workshops, and all details are on my WORKSHOPSCT.com site.

flyer succ pump 2018

A day at the Strong Family Farm Harvest Festival on October 20th – Mark the date. This a historic farm with so many new updates and a beautiful barn. They will have many vendors in their large field, and fun things to do with kids – so mark the date. I love this place. It is located in Vernon, CT.

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

Garden Talk at the East Hartford Garden Club on Oct 22nd with succulent sales. I really enjoyed speaking to this club last year, and they asked me back. You guessed it – we will be talking Succulent Pumpkin Centerpieces. Contact the club if interested in attending.

spooky terrarium copywrite photo C Testa_0003

New Items – Spooky Kits:

I am now offering “Spooky Halloween Terrarium Kits” for sale – see www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. I had so much fun making a prototype with a skull embellishment on the glass and adding cacti. Kits are available now. The glass bowl is embellished with a skull applique which makes it super cool for the Halloween season. The internal components, 2 cacti plants, and instructions are part of the kit.

spooky terrarium copywrite photo C Testa_0001

9th Annual KB Workshops

My 9th Annual Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making Workshops will be opening by end of September for pre-registrations. Stay tuned. We are offering Advanced and Beginner sessions this year. We absolutely love offering this quality workshop with fresh live greens – and this year is year 9. OMG. That means, next year, it will be a decade of a holiday event I truly cherish and love offering. It takes a lot of work and coordination and I’m thankful to have my elf helpers – so stay tuned – it is coming.

BBPOTS Container Crazy CT_0007

Hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

 

My First Square Wreath Done!

9 Comments

Greeting Fellow Visitors,

Making a square wreath is a little more challenging as compared to a typical round wreath because of the corners and how you should keep the greens symmetrical to maintain the square look of the frame – but it is just as much fun as any project working with freshly cut evergreens.

Steps to Make a Square Wreath:

First, decide if want to batch your bundles of freshly cut greens by the “same type/variety” or by a “mix of each type” per bundle.

Mix of Fresh Cut Evergreens

Mix of Fresh Cut Evergreens

Because I wanted to see how it would look if I cut and batched the fresh evergreens by same type, this is the option I used to make my first square wreath.

However, I also love the look of bundles when a mix of each cutting or snip of the various greens are batched and bundled as well. It just depends on your preference or style.

Types of Evergreens Used:

Shown above, from left to right, are Holly, Berried Juniper, Silver Fir, Fraser Fir, Cedar Coned, Boxwood, and Golden Arborvitae.

Highlights of the Evergreens:

  • Holly – Very sharp leaves, and more of a decor touch – I only used 2 batches of those.
  • Berried Juniper – What is a wreath, kissing ball, or centerpiece without a touch of the berried Juniper? The soft, blue tones add a contrast and like the Holly, I made only 2-3 bundles of this to add as a highlight.
  • Silver Fir – Thick stems, one sided long soft needles (meaning the underside color is softer), and smells amazing when cut!!
  • Fraser Fir – Very long lasting, a must in any arrangement, traditional – just like Balsam, but Fraser is what I had available this season.
  • Cedar Coned – I love, love, love the golden color of the little cones on the tips – and it really shows up against darker greens, like the Boxwood. This type tends to drupe or dangle, so use care where you position it.
  • Boxwood – This is another fav – because it is so classic, a rich dark green color, small ovate like leaves, and a bonus is they don’t make your hands sticky while you work.  It’s a dark contrast of green to use in the design and a nice base, such as the Fraser Fir or Balsam.
  • Golden Arborvitae – Soft, flexible yet so beautiful – it has patterns of golden yellow in the green, and really so pretty to add as another element. Like the Cedar, it is a little softer and pliable.
  • Pine – Also smells amazing when cut, very sappy, and thin, long, flexible needles, nice next to coarse greens. Think thick foliage next to fine.

Cutting the Snips for Bundles:

So, cut a few of each at all the same length (4-5″ or 5-6″) and wire them together tightly at the cut end with green florist wire. Use sharp pruners and wear gloves, otherwise, you will have a sticky mess on your hands, and lots of lotion required afterwards.

Prepared Bundles:

Here are several bundles prepared. It is easier and faster to work if you have all the bundles ready to go, then you can lay them out on top of your frame to see how they would look before attaching them individually on the frame.

Bundles Prepared

Bundles Prepared

Think about putting the lighter colored bundles next to darker ones. For example, dark green Boxwood next to the light blue of the berried Juniper or the softer Golden Arborvitae. However, in the end, I don’t think it much matters, as all the beautiful freshly cut evergreens on the wreath usually look amazing!

Dark Green Boxwood

Dark Green Boxwood

14″ Wire Frame Used:

A heavy-duty double-wire 14″ square frame was used for this wreath. The durable frame is usable year after year, which is why I highlighted it at my class on making kissing balls and other holiday creations last weekend.

14" Wire Frame Used

14″ Wire Frame Used

Shown above are several of the bundles attached.  You can see there are two bars along each side of the frame.

Options are to wrap each bundle directly over the middle of those two bars, or to stagger them on each edge of the double bars. If you have a paddle of florist wire, wrap the stem end to the wire, then continue for each bundle without cutting the wire from the paddle.

Working Way Around

Working Way Around

Or you can cut wire as you go – either way works – but the key is to wire tightly. Wrap, pull tight, wrap a few times more to ensure it is secure.  The Silver Fir, as an example, can be heavy as well as a batch of drooping Cedars, so be aware of their weight for each bundle.  Boxwood and Fraser Fir are lighter thus may not require as much wiring.

Golden Arborvitae Used in the Design

Golden Arborvitae Used in the Design

As you approach each corner, think about the placement a bit so the square form is maintained. It also helps to watch a good holiday movie or listen to holiday tunes, and if your day is lightly snowing!

Snowfall that day in Broad Brook, CT

Snowfall that day in Broad Brook, CT

Here is my first ever made finished square wreath without decor and ribbons. The little red berries are double-ended on a wire and easy to attach. The look here is natural and likable, but decor was added after this step.

Square Wreath with Red Berries Attached

Square Wreath with Red Berries Attached

Adding Decor:

This step is really based on your preference. I made a bow to match the color of my white and red holiday decor colors at the house, and inserted picks of white snowflakes. Zip ties are what I use to attach a hanger on the back.

Bow on the Left Side

Bow on the Left Side

Silver Snowflakes Added

Silver Snowflakes Added

All Done!

Here it is all finished and hung on my door.  When my hubby arrived home, he said he liked it and that it smelled good too. And, when posted, many friends “liked it” which was very nice too – Thank you!

All Done!

All Done!

Want to Make Your Own ?? – Now’s Your Last Chance at Cathy T’s!

I’m holding a mini-session tomorrow, Saturday, Dec 13th from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. If interested in attending, contact me via text or call: 860-977-9473 or email containercathy@gmail.com. Cost is $30-35 based on item you elect to make. Options: Kissing Ball, Candle Centerpiece, Round Wreath – or, of course, a Square Wreath!!!  Location: Broad Brook, CT.

This will be your last opportunity to Make Your Own, but if you don’t have time, and need a decor element made for your home, custom orders are accepted.

TGIF Everyone,

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

Visit Cathy T’s Pinboards on Holidays to see many, many inspirational ideas of working with evergreens!  Click the Pinterest Icon on the right side bar of this blog.

To see examples of Cathy T’s Container Gardens Stuffed with Evergreens – See her latest posts and pinboards.  Ho-Ho-Ho-Horticulturist!!!

How Do You Decorate for the Holidays?

Leave a comment

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

Evergreen Decor Inspiration

6 Comments

Just some more inspiration for the upcoming Evergreen Kissing Ball and Holiday Creations Class on December 7, 2013.  These are examples of items created last year, and samples of decor available at the class to dress up the holiday creation you elect to make as a registered attendee to this event.

Photos by Cathy Testa

Photos by Cathy Testa

Red and white themes are bright and cheerful!  Add the “I believe in Santa” and you have a fun wreath with lots of cheer.

Photos by Cathy Testa

Photos by Cathy Testa

Adding fuzzy little bears or other tiny felted stuffed animals is a perfect embellishment for a wreath or kissing ball you may make in honor of the special little one in your life.  Little felted decor will be available at the class.

Photos by Cathy Testa

Photos by Cathy Testa

Natural decor like shown on this candle centerpiece speaks to me.  I love cones, pods, berries in the brown and natural tones.  And note the lighted Kissing Ball (bottom right) made by an attendee last year – great idea to add the lights.

Photos by Cathy Testa

Photos by Cathy Testa

Little ideas here and there with felted decor, or a wreath made with one type of evergreen can be simple but stunning.

Photos by Cathy Testa

Photos by Cathy Testa

Bundling ornaments and natural elements from raffia to preserved moss is fun, or go with with glitter and glam!  Make it your style.

Many of the embellishments shown here will be available at the class along with glittered florist picks, sticks, cones, ribbons of various styles, berries, and more.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

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

4 Comments

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

Unique Wreaths capture a Native and Organic style

1 Comment

And they are the creations of Mauli McDonald of ‘art and nature’ out of New London, NH.

Art of Nature_0001

A visit to a fine arts festival at Roseland Cottage situated in the heart of Woodstock, Connecticut makes for a pleasant afternoon.  The grounds of this 1846 home, a national historic landmark, is filled from corner to corner with 175 artisans and their wares, from jewelry to pottery and more for two days every October.

As I toured the artisans’ booths this year, on October 19th, I did not bother much to take out my camera as usual.  For some reason, I wasn’t in the picture taking mood, but I was admiring many of the art works showcased and being offered for sale by the participants.  I picked up a few holiday themed ornaments, a really nice pottery piece, and enjoyed a lunch as I chatted with a group at a table filled with visitors from all around New England.

But one artisan that day struck me in particular – and it was the works by Mauli McDonald of ‘art of nature’ from New London, NH.  She had beautiful organic wreaths and center pieces.  Even her business card connected with me.  It was created on torn edged paper with a real feather pasted on the center below her business name.

Images property of Mauli McDonald

Images property of Mauli McDonald

Mauli’s words provide the perfect explanation, as presented on her website, of her art form:

“The materials that I have chosen to work with have in some way enchanted me.  The soft edge of a feather, the curve and cradle of an antler, the green pool moss on a white wintered log—each object speaks.  And as you will discover, many of the designs carry, as well, a native, organic, almost unsophisticated style.”

As I looked over her unique wreaths created with native and organic materials that day, I was in awe of how she assembled the textures, colors, and overall feel.  She definitely has talent – and when you see her pieces in person, you witness her ability to capture materials from the forest floors in well-balanced compositions.

But more importantly, the objects she uses are organic, natural and make one think of things in nature which she so beautifully captured in an art form.  As you look and admire them, many may bring you memories of scenes in nature you have experienced in your own walks through parks, forests, or even in your own backyard.

As I browsed along her website later, I spotted her ‘antique art’ pieces where a violin or snowshoe was used in combination with treasures from nature.  How wonderful these pieces are because they capture a keepsakes and combine it with nature’s treasures.

Images property of Mauli McDonald

Images property of Mauli McDonald

As Mauli McDonald states,

“I am drawn to certain thing simply because I like the object.  A singular piece may have no function, but there is something about it that I find appealing.”

I totally get that statement. Being ‘drawn to something’ because it has a particular connection or appeal.  Like the violin, for example, made me think of my father who plays one.  And the snowshoe is one of my hobbies in winter.  But the way this artist assembles theses treasures with nature is truly beautiful.  It pays homage to both objects – the treasures found in life and given by nature to us every day.

Mauli McDonald’s works are wonderful examples of “combining nature with art” and I wanted to share them with you. Take the time to visit Mauli McDonald’s website at www.natureswildart.com and if you should happen to be traveling in New Hampshire, I suspect a visit to her beautiful shop would be worthwhile.  Just look at the entrance!

Image property of Mauli McDonald

Image property of Mauli McDonald

It is located at 9 Newport Road, New London, NH 03257.  To reach Mauli, email to urth@tds.net or call 603-526-2638.

For more information regarding the Roseland Cottage Fine Arts and Crafts Festival, visit HistoricNewEngland.org/Festivals.

Written by Cathy Testa

P.S. Tips when you visit Roseland Cottage for their next annual show, just enjoy – everything is there for you, parking is in lots across the street, some on lawn areas, lunch is available as there are many choices by the food vendors, live music is playing too.  I would say the only tip is to note this event on your calendar so you don’t miss it next year.

Evergreen Kissing Balls Class 2012

2 Comments
 
Candle Centerpiece

Good Morning, or Afternoon Everyone!

Today is the day I have the pleasure of teaching attendees the how-to’s of making gorgeous evergreen kissing balls for the holidays.  Wreath making is also being offered as well as mailbox swags, button balls, candle center pieces, and more.  This is my third annual class on this topic, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to hold it because is it fun, creative, and everyone leaves with a hand-made evergreen decoration.

For those reading my blog regularly, you know this tradition – at least for me – is partly due to my Canadian heritage, and the other part of the formula is being in the world of horticulture.  It can be dreary looking outside in the winter months, and having evergreens around your home in various décor showcases surely cheers one up.  It adds a nice dark green color against the soft snow of the season.Birdbath with Evergreens

I hang two kissing balls from hooks by my entrance door every year, on hooks used for hanging baskets in the summer.  I also make an evergreen topper for my whiskey barrels and insert a big wicker snowman with lights in the center.  I like putting evergreens on a iron garden bench and on the rim of my hearted birdbath.  And I hang evergreen garlands from various places too.  The list goes on.

Festive SnowyAs shown on my latest guest appearance on the CT Style televisions program (See:  http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/ct_style/holiday-kissing-ball#.ULnhI10o7IU), I mentioned kissing balls don’t just have to be hung from hooks or from the ceiling of your entrance doors or wrap around porches, although they look absolutely gorgeous there.  They can also be placed in a pretty holiday tin as a table centerpiece. Or you can create festive and fun snow man by using a kissing ball as the body. Another new creation I invented is what I call a “button ball” which is almost a full ball that is hung on the base of your windows, outdoors, on the center of the base.  Just think creatively.

Yesterday, my oil delivery guy tapped on my door to hand in my bill, and he said, “Your place looks so nice!”  I told him I was setting up a class and had people attending tomorrow.  He asked for what?…, and of course, I pointed to my kissing balls hanging right there, he said they were beautiful.  You know, I’ve had the mail man complement me on plants in summer, the woman delivering the newspapers mentioning she enjoys my big container garden season change up by the end of my driveway, and even an electrician this summer, working here, bought an item of mine on his way out that I just made for the farmers market.  He said his wife still raves about it still.

Candle CenterpieceThree days after my kissing ball and wreath making class, I’m holding a class at my local East Windsor Senior Center on how to make candle centerpieces with evergreens and decor.  My parents go to this senior center every single day, yes every week day, for lunch.  They love it there.  I never thought they would be so involved in a senior center, only because they spent so much time at home on our farm, and many of their best friends were Canadian relatives, but now he has many town friends from the senior center.

One day I ran into a person who is involved in running the center, and he said, at first my father was very quiet, yet now he talks to everyone non-stop.  I’m so glad the center is here for my parents, I truly appreciate this helpful service at a time when my parents are retired.  The senior center staff invited me to have lunch with them before we begin our hands-on session for candle centerpieces.  This is another class I’m looking forward to doing, especially because the attendees are good friends of my parents, and it is a local venue.

ev on plateThen it is off to decorating some business store fronts with evergreen décor and hopefully, after that is done, I can do a little more at home for myself.  Some of my favorite evergreens to use are boxwood, balsam and fraser firs, blue berried juniper, coned cedar, yew, holly, and white pine.  I went over why during my television segment, and will during classes.

I also love collecting pine cones which I bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at a low temperature to kill any little critters that maybe hanging out in there, and this also opens them up if they are closed tight.  The fragrance emitted, as they slowly warmed up, is interesting, and kind of sets the mood too.

Beautiful, fresh, and textural evergreens dress up your outdoor environment this time of year, and will add a bit of fresh fragrance, and create festive, welcoming environment.  Once decorated, they can’t be beat and I think even the birds enjoy them.

A new trend I’m seeing is the evergreens are showcasing more unique light products, such as solar powered lights that can be tucked in the base, or you can put a string of lights in the base on top of the soil before inserting your greens and painted or natural branches for holiday outdoor containers and pots filled with evergreens.  You can even create an ice globe by filling a balloon with water, putting outdoors during freezing temps, it will freeze into a ball.  Then just peal off the balloon and you have an ice globe.  This globe tucked into the base of the evergreens in a holiday pot with lights can look very cool during the evenings.  And if it melts, oh well, that just gives some moisture to the tips and cuttings.

This year’s class is full, but keep it in mind for next season as it will return and grow each year.  Also, if you are interested in a custom order for evergreen décor, do not hesitate to contact me at cathy.testa@aol.com or 860-977-9473.  Thank you for visiting.  Don’t forget to see more photos on my business Facebook page:  Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, and on Pinterest for my holiday boards for ideas.  Cathy T

From Spark to Tradition

Leave a comment

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