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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 - My Guest Blog Post - The A to Z of the A to Z -

Shortly (because you know time flies when you're having fun) it will be time again for the A to Z Challenge.  This will be it's 10th year and I have been participating since 2016.

At the end of this year's challenge there was a poll about the different things we liked and perhaps didn't like about the organizational aspects of the challenge and the benefits or drawbacks to participation in the group and there was a contest to win a guest spot on the main A to Z Challenge blog.  I know there are hundreds of participants in the A to Z and I don't know how many entered the contest but I did and I was among the winners!

The A to Z of the A to Z according to me:

I was ABSOLUTELY thrilled when I found out I had won a spot as a guest blogger in the A to Z poll contest.  Then I had a moment of panic.  What would I write about?  I hope that my insights will be BENEFICIAL to those who may not be sure about joining for the 10th year of the A to Z.

There is a feeling of CAMARADERIE among the participants, even though the focus of our blogs can be very DIFFERENT.  We are not all writers or crafters or music lovers and yet we can find some common ground.  The EXPERIENCE of blogging almost every day for a month brings about a feeling of FELLOWSHIP among the participants and I GLADLY open my emails during the month of April to see what new posts there are.

Some people write HISTORICAL blog posts that are very INFORMATIVE and that helps to JUSTIFY the time I spend reading them!  KEEPING up with them all is a LABOR of love.   Some folks write about words and their MEANINGS, some write NOSTALGIC posts about their family history.

I love that the A to Z Challenge is OPEN to anyone who wants to join the PARTY and there are always the helpful co-hosts to answer any QUESTIONS that may come up.

I am excited and READY to start planning for the 2019 version and hope that I can bring a SMILE to your face as you read my posts.  I have my THEME and hope that I can share something UNIQUE to keep you coming back.

Our founding father, Arlee Bird, was truly a VISIONARY ten years ago when he started this WONDERFUL project.

I have only been doing the A to Z for the past three years so I am not sure if there have been any XYLOGRAPHERS who have shared their experiences, but the word itself may have been used by someone looking for that hard to find X-word.

This YEARLY gathering of bloggers is certainly something that I look forward to because there are some ZANY folks out there who put a lot of effort into coming up with new ways to entertain us.

Thanks again for allowing me to participate as a guest writer on the A to Z Blog.  Can't wait to see what Arlee and the gang have in store for the 10th anniversary!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 Blog(mas) And the Stockings were hung...

but I can't say "by the chimney with care" because we don't have a fireplace anymore.  I wish we did. 

The stocking in the middle here is our oldest daughter, Amanda's.  She got it for her first Christmas from her grandparents in Oregon and has used it ever since, even though the rest of us have stockings with our names on them. 

Last year since my mom was going to be with us for Christmas and we had one of my husband's friends staying here, we added a few stockings to the wall.  

When the kids were little and wanted us to get up at some ungodly hour on Christmas morning we would say..."We'll be up in a little bit, why don't you see what Santa put in your stockings."  That might buy us another half hour or so but the risk was that they would eat the candy that was usually in there and be hyper.  Sometimes I remembered to say "Don't eat the candy!"

Now that they are all older and living on their own "Santa" puts more practical gifts in there like travel size toiletries, lotto tickets, socks that kind of stuff.  Yeah, a couple of pieces of candy too. 

Do you have stockings?  Have a fireplace to hang them by?  What do you use as stocking stuffers? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 Blog(mas) - My first Christmas tree

I moved out of my parents home when I was almost 22.  I wanted to do the "adult" thing.  Of course, I made sure I could afford it but I forgot to add things like Christmas decorations into the budget. 

Fortunately for me my oldest sister, JoAnne, was very crafty and resourceful.  She invited me to her house one Saturday and we sat around her table and made some ornaments using pieces of felt, socks, bits of jewelry and even paper clips!. 

See the candle?  This was made from a couple of pieces of felt and stuffed with cotton. 

It has definitely seen better days but here it is on our tree a couple of years ago.  It is well over 40 years old and yet I remember so clearly the fun my sister and I had that day.

This little snowman was made using one of my brother-in-law's old socks turned inside out.  It, too, is still adorning our trees all these years later.

Every year when I put this Rudolph on the tree I think that I need to at least put his eye back on.  How can he see to lead the sleigh with only one eye?  

She had some broken pieces of jewelry that she used to decorate this tree.  

One of the ones that I thought was really clever was making an ice skate using a paper clip for the blades.  JoAnne was a teacher so of course she had plenty of those around.  This one could also use some TLC: 

For a while I was trying to get or make a new ornament for the tree every year but little by little that practice stopped.  I've even stopped decorating as much as I used to, but it wouldn't be Christmas to me without these special ornaments.

My sister, JoAnne, was 12 years older than I so I barely remember her being at home with us when I was young; she got married when I was 8.  As I got older we became really good friends and it is times like this when I miss her the most.  JoAnne passed away at age 59 in 2002.  Way too young.  

Do you make your own ornaments?  Have any special ones from your first Christmas tree?  Love to hear about it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 - Blog(mas) A gift that keeps on giving

Blog(mas) Day 4

My family has spread out over the years and we really don't see each other as often as we'd like so one year I decided to make a gift that I hoped would help keep us closer.  I knew that everyone decorated their house so I made some little ornaments for each of the big holidays. 

Valentine's Day hanging pocket, Easter banner, 4th of July wreath and door knob hanger and a Christmas goodie bag.

I put one decoration for each holiday in a box and I wrote a little note to go with them:

Well I’ll bet you didn’t know it

but I’m really not a poet

and I never learned to do

that other thing called Haiku

so this year let’s just say

these little guys come your way

with love from us to you!

A ghost ornament, star wind chime, snowman notepad and Christmas banner

Cornucopia for Thanksgiving.  

I explained to the family that each time they changed the decorations in their homes, they would have some small thing to put up that was made by us and that way they would think of us all year long.  

This was a set one year, Valentine heart hanger, 4th of July star, ghost ornament, Thanksgiving magnet and a Santa pail.  

They really liked the idea and I know that I've seen the decorations up when I've gone to visit.  They were not expensive to make but I think it turned out pretty nice.  It was also a fun thing to do with my kids as they helped me make the decorations.   

After a couple of years I decided to try something different so I made up a "Surprise of the Month Club" along the lines of the wine basket club and fruit of the month club.  I sent this letter with the first gift:

This was the first gift, a gingerbread house.  You can see that it cracked a bit in the mail.  

For February I made individual heart brownies and put their initials on them.

March was brownies in the shape of a shamrock.

April was Oreos covered in chocolate and icing.

May was a cupcake flower basket.

I don't remember what I made for the rest of the year (assuming I didn't flake out and stop doing it!) and I don't have any pictures to remind me.  I'm a bit bummed about that.    

We have since stopped exchanging gifts at all, as things tend to go sometimes.  I don't even put up many decorations myself anymore.  It is fun to see the pictures and remember these things though.  

How about you?  Give handmade gifts?  Decorate for the holidays?  Love to hear about it.  

Monday, December 3, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 - Blog(mas) The Holiday Train

Our CalTrain has been participating with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation since 2001 with the Holiday Train.  This train runs from San Francisco to Santa Clara, usually on the first weekend in December, and makes 20 minute stops in several of the cities along the way. 

During the stops Santa and his friends get off the train and mingle with the crowd.  There are usually some other activities going on as well.  

Some stops have face painting or balloon artists and sometimes the neighborhood high school band will play.

They also have bins to collect toys for tots and last year they got over 3000 new toys for deserving children.  Frosty the Snowman is there.  

There is usually someone selling hot chocolate too of course.  Wouldn't be right if Rudolph didn't come.    

Santa makes his way up and down the line handing out candy and shaking hands. 

It is very bright and festive and it puts everyone in a good mood.  Gotta have a Nutcracker! 

One of the cars has carolers and they sing a few songs.

Then the train moves on to its next stop with Santa waving from inside.  

I am sorry I didn't know about this train until 2007.  It is a really fun thing to do with the kids and it is free!  That makes it even better.  

The Holiday train used to stop at our station.  Then they elevated our platform above the roadway and now it doesn't stop there anymore.  We live a block away from the station though so a couple of years ago I had my camera ready and managed to catch it as it went by.  It is really pretty all lit up.  

I was mad that I didn't set an alarm on my phone to remind me to catch it this year.  I was going to walk up to the platform and take another video from there.  Have to wait until next year now.

Side note, in the #DecemberReflections2018, today's prompt is Orange and I think my first picture captures that color pretty well, don't you? 

Have you seen or heard of the Holiday Train?   

Sunday, December 2, 2018

December Ditties - 2018 - December Reflections

Favorite photo of 2018:

There are a lot of photos to choose from as I took over 3,000 photos during the course of the year so far.  These two stand out though, not so much for the quality of the photos but for what they represent.

The first one was taken at our daughter's graduation from Sonoma State College in May of this year.  Coincidentally it was also the date of our 34th anniversary.  The promises we made to each other on our wedding day have held us together and enabled us to raise three wonderful adults.  It is not always smiles and there are definitely days when it is really hard, just like our daughter's educational experience, but it is definitely worth it in the end. 

I took this second picture at the Phil Collins concert my son and I went to in October.  I love the way Phil's son is looking at him and I know that they were both very proud of each other at that moment.  Again, I'm sure it is not always easy for either of them, but the love comes through here I think.  

Here are the prompts again for #decemberreflections2018 in case you want to play along.  

December Ditties - 2018 - Blog(mas) Santa's Sleigh

One of the Christmas decorations I remember from when I was younger is the Santa's sleigh we had that hung above our fireplace.  It was made of styrofoam and I'm not sure how it lasted all the years it did.  This picture is from 1964 and I don't even remember if that was the first year we had it or if it was from before then.  That's my sister, Judy, me in the middle and a friend of mine from school, Joanne.  You can barely see the top of my little sister's head.   

This picture is from about 1980 or 1981.  My parents had sold the house I grew up in and moved to San Jose into a mobile home park.  Really, I don't know how the styrofoam made it.  Guess they made things sturdier in those days - LOL.  My father must have attached some poles to the back.  That sounds like something he would do.  He was pretty crafty in his own mechanical way.     

Do you have any decorations that lasted 16 years or more?  Share!