my side of the family

Saturday, my family arrived for our annual Christmas party. I have two brothers and four sisters. All were here, along with my Dad and many of the associated spouses, children, and children’s children.

All the grands and greats get a stocking. Each contains candy, a candy cane, an ornament or a small toy, and a gift from my Dad.

2014 family Christmas

The stockings increase in number year by year. This year, I made three new ones for the three great-grandchildren (my Dad’s greats, not mine) born this year. The youngest, being only ten days old, didn’t come this year. Hopefully, she will be toddling around the Christmas tree next year. The stockings have finally reached the top of the twenty-two steps and now go around the bend in the railing and preceed down the upstairs hall.

2014 family Christmas

Of my Dad’s grands and greats, there were twelve of the twenty-one grand-children here and thirteen of the thirty great-grands in attendance.

2014 family Christmas

My niece and her son are visiting from South Africa this month. They stayed over the night before the party and she helped in the kitchen while we were getting ready for the party.

2014 family Christmas

This year, instead of a big meal, we decided to serve appetizers and finger foods. Everyone brought something and added it to the table.

2014 family Christmas

The kitchen always seems to be a favorite gathering spot.

2014 family Christmas

My brother-in-law, my Dad, my nephew…not sure what they’re discussing.

2014 family Christmas

My sweet great-niece. We found a piece of holly for her lovely red hat.

2014 family Christmas

My sister Genny’s family, with the exception of her older daughter’s husband, who was not able to make the trip to the States this year.

2014 family Christmas

We managed to gather all the grands and great-grands at the party for a picture.

2014 family Christmas

It’s nice to have littles running around again. Seems we had a few years where they were scarce. Now the great-grands are beginning to count up.

2014 family Christmas

We have a $10 limit on gifts. Everyone who brings one, recieves one. This year, we had the children pass them all out. Then I read instructions before each person opened a gift. They could follow the instructions or open the gift they had. Instructions were things like: Trade your gift with someone younger than you are; Trade with someone wearing a sweater; Trade with someone who has a birthday in December. It was a lot of fun!

2014 family Christmas

2014 family Christmas

As a surprise for my Dad, we all went together and had his antique clock repaired. His paternal grandparents bought this clock when they were married in 1902.

2014 family Christmas

The 1902 wedding picture of my Great-grandfather William Otis Ashby and my Great-grandmother Ollie Sims Ashby.

William Otis and Ollie Sims Ashby 1902

The clock as it was displayed in my grandparents’ home.

Grandma Ruth

We had a great time together, at our family Christmas party. I’m thankful for my family, and especially for my Dad, who loves us all and believes in each one of us. Marry Christmas, Dad!


house concert 2014

Another wonderful evening of Christmas music, friends and good food, featuring our musicians: Nathan George, Mark Stoffel, and Henry Haffner.

house concert

Henry, and Mark warm up before the concert in front of the Nativity Tree.

house concert

Our guests enjoyed hot punch, coffee and/or cold punch before the music began.

house concert

Company lined the hall and filled the living room and the dining room.

house concert

house concert

After the concert, everyone stayed for a buffet of goodies.

buffet of snacks

This concert is a highlight of the season for me and for many of our guests. Thank you, Nathan, Mark and Henry for another beautiful holiday performance!

house concert

Only six days until a Merry Christmas!


christmas tree countdown ~ garden tree

The tree in the downstairs bath is decorated with a garden theme. Artificial flowers are tucked in around the ornaments and ivy winds around the tree.

garden tree in downstairs bath

If you follow the green ribbon up, you find another cardinal helping decorate the tree.

Garden tree

This tree started with a simple spiral of red and white flowers. This picture was taken in 2005.

bath tree

It slowly gained more ornaments and more flowers. Here it is in 2010.

bathroom tree

I used pictures of our garden to decoupage ornaments for this tree.



The bathroom counter gets Christmas handtowels and a bubble-light night light.

bathroom counter

And the bench gets a few silver painted flower pots and a little garden bench for decoration.

impromptu vignette

Nine days until Christmas!


menu plan monday ~ december 15, 2014

It took me a while to get back up to gear after the open house. DH took that Monday off work, which was nice. Our son and his wife were here until Wednesday afternoon, which was also nice. We enjoyed our visit with them.

Our son and his wife

In a few days, we will host a house concert with Nathan George, Mark Stoffel, and Henry Haffner. One of my favorite holiday events! I am so excited that they are able to return this year. The weather service is forcasting snow showers for Thursday morning, but otherwise, it looks pretty good.

house concert

On Saturday, my side of the family will gather here for our family Christmas party. Everyone’s bringing finger food. Should be a fun day!

family Christmas party

Here’s the menu for the week.

Turkey Sandwiches
Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Chicken and Dumplings (For dumplings, I drop the dough into the soup by small spoonfuls, instead of rolling and cutting it.)

chicken and dumpling soup

Homemade Buns
Veggies and Dip

hamburger buns

Thursday ~ House Concert
Veggie Tray with Dip
Cheese Tray with Red and Green Grapes
Bacon Cheese Spread with Bagel Chips
Antipasto Platter
Spicy Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce
Cream Cheese Sausage Balls
Bacon Wrapped Smokies
Marinated Shrimp
Spinach Balls
Chex Mix
Candied Pecans
Assorted Truffles

Chicken Taco Soup

Chicken Taco Chili

Saturday ~ my side of the family’s Christmas Party
I plan to make:
Cream Cheese Sausage Balls
Chex Mix
Christmas Cookies and Truffles

Fridge Food

You’ll find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Ten days until Christmas!


tutorial: attaching putz fence and fence posts to the base

This post supplements a tutorial I wrote March 8,2012, about making fences for Putz houses, and a post I wrote March 16, 2012, about making fence posts for Putz houses. I had promised to write a tutorial about attaching fence posts and fences to bases, and started it, but didn’t finish it till now. I hope you find this information helpful!

When making bases and fences for Putz houses, I prefer to paint and glitter the base and the posts before the posts are attached to the base. That’s a personal call. Do it the way that makes the most sense to you. No right or wrong at this point.

When painting my own Putz houses, I mix acrylic paint half and half with white glue and add a little fine sand to the mix for texture. I glitter the piece while the paint is still wet, but it’s easy to touch up glitter later. Just brush on some white glue or Mod Podge over the spot that needs glitter and sprinkle the glitter on while it is still wet. I paint the bottom of the base, but do not glitter it. That’s a good place to sign your name and the date you crafted your little glitter house. Who knows? Someone may find that very interesting in fifty or sixty years.

Click here for the tutorial for making bases for Putz houses.

Click here for the Tutorial for Making Fence Posts.

The base has been painted and glittered. Now the posts are ready to paint. I’ve already put a base coat of white acrylic paint on them and let it dry.

Putz posts

If needed, sand the base coat for a smoother finish, though vintage houses do have a lot of texture so this step may be skipped, if you’re good with that. A nail file works well for sanding small pieces.

Putz posts

I love the very fine point on these needle-nosed tweezers for working with the small parts of Putz houses. They work well for holding the posts while they are painted.

Putz posts

The light texture comes from the sand in the paint.

Putz posts

Glitter while the paint is wet. Allow the posts to dry before attaching them to the base. A hair dryer or an embossing gun can speed the drying time if you are in a hurry. Just remember that a hair dryer puts out a lot of air movement. Don’t point it at your dish of glitter! An embossing gun is not quite so forceful and is a better choice, in my opinion. But it can still blow glitter all over the counter. Be mindful of where you’re pointing the breeze.

Putz posts

With fence posts completed and dried, it’s time to attach them to the dry base and construct the fence. The base can be as simple as a piece of cardboard or it can be a box that elevates the house just a bit. Some Putz houses are adhered to gift boxes or jars. Use what ever makes you happy.

Be mindful of what the house looks like that you plan to set on the base. Is the door in the middle, or to the right or left? You may want to place the entrance in your fence accordingly.

small fence with posts building a Putz house base

Glue a post to the spot where you want it. I find a hot glue gun to be the best tool for this step.

Putz posts

Cut a fence section to the length you want it. Using a hot glue gun, attach it to the post, holding it in place until the glue cools. Take care to keep the fences straight.

Putz fence

Add more posts and more fence sections until you have constructed as much fencing as you like. Vintage houses often have fencing along the front and/or the sides. I like to put my fences all the way around the house. Again, make yourself happy!

Putz fence

Putz fence

Putz base and fence

If the fence is painted after it is glued to the base, the cardboard will absorb moisture from the paint, and may warp or bow. If this happens, place a few pins to hold the fence in a straight line. With the pins in place, the cardboard will dry straight and the fence will look great. If the pins have been placed into wet paint, twist them as they are removed rather than pulling them straight out. If pulled straight out, they may pull up a chunk of paint that will require a touch up.

painting the fence

Globs of glue are fine. They make great snowdrifts after they are painted and glittered.

Putz posts

The tutorial “Making fences for Putz houses,” explains how to attach fences that use no posts to the Putz bases.

Here are links to some of my other tutorials for making Putz houses.

Making bases for Putz houses

Making fences for Putz houses

Making Putz house ornaments from Christmas cards

tutorial ~ make a box using a Christmas card

I have made little boxes from Christmas cards for a long time. Easy to make and useful, besides! I use them as gift boxes for small items, to fill with goodies to tuck into stockings, to wrap favors for guests, etc. Use your imagination! I’m sure you can think of many ways to use these special little boxes.

To begin, choose the card you would like to use. The larger the card, the bigger the box can be.

make a box from a Christmas card

It’s fine with me if a card has writing on the inside, as long as it doesn’t disclose any private information. I find it charming to open a little Christmas card box and see evidence of someone’s Christmas greetings inside. If, however, you don’t want writing inside your box, use a card with no writing or use two card fronts to make your box.

make a box from a Christmas card

Cut the spine from the front of the card.

make a box from a Christmas card

The back of the card needs to be about 1/8 inch less than the front on one long side and one short side. If you trim the sides too much, the bottom of the box will be too small to fit snugly under the top.

make a box from a Christmas card

Here I have stacked the smaller white back on top the purple front of the card, the other sides being even, so you can see how much smaller it needs to be. Not much smaller than the front.

making boxes from Christmas cards

The next step is to score the sides of the card. For boxes with one inch sides, I use this handy ruler and a scoring tool, scoring each side of the front and the back.

make a box from a Christmas card

If you want taller sides than one inch, use an acrylic ruler to measure the size you want.

make a box from a Christmas card

If you look closely, you can see the scored lines.

making boxes from Christmas cards

You can draw pencil lines before scoring if you want to. I find that an extra step, but it can make the cut lines easier to see in the next step.


Cut from the sides just to the other line.


Now it’s time to glue the tabs. Glue should be placed on the outside of the tab and the inside of the box.

make a box from a Christmas card

I find clothespins make handy clamps to hold the tabs until they are dry.

make a box from a Christmas card

Remove the pins carefully. If they are stuck, wiggle them back and forth to help release them. The best plan, though, is to be sure there is no extra glue where the pins may stick.

make a box from a Christmas card

Bottom and top, finished.

make a box from a Christmas card

Top and bottom put together.

make a box from a Christmas card

Another box I made this evening.

make a box from a Christmas card

If you want a deeper box, choose a large card.

make a box from a Christmas card

Use an acrylic ruler to score the sides as deep as you want them.

make a box from a Christmas card


make a box from a Christmas card

Pretty boxes.

make a box from a Christmas card

Whenever I need a little container, I reach for a cute little box. This one was made to be used as a shadow box, but I haven’t done that yet. The little boxes are great for containing small objects on the craft desk.

Christmas card box

This one is holding ornament toppers, which I need for some decoupaged ornaments I’m working on.

make a box from a Christmas card

Have fun making your own little Christmas boxes!


mid century putz houses

As you may know, our son and his wife were here this past week from Seattle, Washington. We had a great visit. The day after the Open House, we had a family Christmas with them. Everyone was here and it was a lot of fun. We exchanged gifts with them, as they will not be here on Christmas day.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, my daughter-in-law and I spent a lot of time in the craft room, working on a project I started for her in December of 2012. Her favorite design style is mid century. I had found three patterns on for mid century style Putz houses. The site has nine patterns now and we’re going to make some of the other houses, too. I drew the other two patterns myself.

These are the five houses as I left off with them two years ago.

mid century Putz houses

We put roofs on all of them and also attached them to bases. Julie began embellishing some of them.

mid century Putz houses

I drew the pattern for this house with the carport, using a picture I found online of a little mid century house in St. Louis. The link is here: It’s the fourth picture on that site.

mid century Putz houses

I also drew a pattern for this house. I saw a gingerbread cookie online with this design. The link no longer works. Julie came up with the idea of the corrugated roof. So cute!

mid century Putz houses

I love the overhang on the A-frame roof. The link to the A-frame pattern is here: A-frame pattern

mid century Putz houses

The ranch house mid century…cute as it can be. Here’s a link to the pattern: Ranch Mid Century

mid century Putz houses

Another cute mid century ranch

ranch mid century putz

I made a paper mock-up of the butterfly ranch house. We didn’t make this one in cardstock yet, but Julie took the pattern home with her.

mid century Putz houses

Now they’re ready to pack for the trip to Seattle. Julie will add Christmas embellishments, driveways, sidewalks, and landscaping. She plans to set up her own little cul-de-sac on a shelf where the kitty can’t get to them.

mid century Putz houses

It was wonderful to get back into the craft room and spend time with another craft enthusiast! Thanks for all the fun, Julie!


christmas open house 2014 ~ downstairs

A beautiful day for a great open house. We had about 190 guests. A few drove quite a ways to be here and we thank them for that gift. It was wonderful to see you!

We thank everyone who had a hand in getting ready for this big day. My sister Genny, my daughter Sarah, sons and daughters-in-law, our granddaughter, our dear friend Laurie who dropped by Saturday to help clean…lots of helping hands!

After two and a half inches of rain on Friday, we were glad to see Sunday’s weather. Sunny during the afternoon. A high in the low 40s. Very nice. I am sure it encouraged attendance. DH and I both totally forgot about taking pictures. We were so busy greeting guests. If anyone has pictures from the open house, I would be grateful to have them. My new friend Dana gave me permission to use the pictures she took. Thanks, Dana!

Ready for company! I wish you could see it at night. There’s a tree in almost every window.

our house

The main attraction in the living room is the Family Tree. I love tinsel on a Christmas tree! I wish a picture could show you how beautiful it is at night, with the lights on and the tree rotating.

living room Christmas tree

The nativity in the living room is backed by a Christmas tree.

living room nativity

In the dining room, you will find the cookie table with punch. Coffee is set up on the buffet in the same room. By the way, the window looking into the kitchen may seem odd placing, but the kitchen used to be a back porch, added to the house in the early 1920s, more than fifty years after the house was built.

cookie table

One of the frames on the table is a list of gluten free goodies. The other is a guide to truffle flavors.

gluten free / truffles

The dining room has the Snow Tree and also a smaller decorated tree on top the cupboard, which you can see in the picture of the cookie table. Our younger daughter put the snowflakes on the windows. She planned to do the top half, too, but was sick for several days and not able to finish the tops of the windows. She’s feeling better, so maybe this week!

snow tree in the dining room

The “library” serves as our family room. The tree in the bay is the Nativity Tree. All the ornaments are nativity related. This is an older picture, but the tree is pretty much the same each year. Just more ornaments. :)

Nativity tree

I made the ribbon for the Nativiy Tree years ago. It contains the Scripture from Luke 2:1-20.

Luke 2:1-20 ribbon

The Three Kings Tree is also in the library.

Wisemen tree

Snow White was totally enamored with her six week old second cousin. She petted him, followed him around, and declared him “SOOO-OH Cu-UTE!” to anyone who would listen. She said he was the first baby she ever got to touch. He seemed to make quite an impression! His mama was sweet about sharing her little one.

second cousins

From the library, you can enter the “music” room. So called because it is the room where our piano resides. This room had three trees this year. One large and two smaller. The large tree is the Bubble Light Tree. Along with light strings and bubble lights, it is decorated with mouth-blown figural glass ornaments, vintage Christmas postcards from DH’s side of the family, and fifty candles in candle clips. Never lit, of course!

bubble light tree

The small tree on the table in the music room is new this year. It is decorated with vintage bead garlands and dark green ornaments. Two battery operated LED light strings brighten the tree.

music room trees

The other tree in the music room is a small tree decorated with vintage ornaments given to me by my mother-in-law. The pictures on the piano are Christmas pictures of our children when they were much younger. The shelves over the piano hold my collection of Christmas china. I like to collect one place setting each of different patterns rather than a set of one particular pattern.

music room

From the music room, we can walk down the hall of the addition. Our children’s baby pictures hang here. I wrap them during the holidays as gifts. Which they are!

baby pictures wrapped as gifts

Across from the baby pictures, on the counter, a deer hides in a basket.


And the aluminum tree nearby displays part of my collection of vintage ornaments.

aluminum tree in addition hall

This little tree in the laundry room holds more vintage ornaments.

laundry room tree

A thrifted nativity sits on the laundry room counter.

laundry room nativity

The blue and silver tree in the downstairs guest room…

blue and silver tree

Another aluminum tree sits in the corner of the guest room.

guest bedroom

In the guest room, I display some vintage Putz houses that my son and his wife gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

vintage Putz houses

This room is also where the Putz Tree is. A white tree with light blue beads and ornaments. And, of course, my Putz houses.

Putz tree

We’ll head back down the hall, through the music room, and into the kitchen. The kitchen tree is on top the fridge and decorated with candy and cookie ornaments, blue beads, and blue and white lights.

cookies and candy tree on top the fridge

The six windows in the kitchen are hung with evergreen garland. My snowflake ornament collection is displayed on the garland.


During the open house, the chalkboard declared there were only eighteen days until Christmas!


I love this little beaded garland that hangs over the chalkboard. I found it online quite a few years ago.


I am going to close out this open house tour of the downstairs with pictures of our amaryllis. I had hoped they would bloom for the party, but one opened a few days later and the other one has not yet opened. They were bought at the same place, planted at the same time, and treated exactly the same as they sat in the sun on the kitchen counter. But one is way short and one way tall! Go figure!



This post took a long time to write. I was too tired the day after the party to compose it. The next two days I was happily occupied in the craft room with my daughter-in-law as we crafted mid century Putz houses for her. A long post on that soon! And there were pictures I didn’t include. I hope to post some of those as I post more Christmas tree stories. I will work on a tour of the upstairs tomorrow. :)


christmas tree countdown ~ the twins’ tree

Our youngest daughter switched bedrooms and we decided to turn her previous bedroom into a room for the twins when they stay overnight. The built-in bunk beds are perfect for the girls.

The room was painted blue, with a green ceiling, and some brown trim around the bed. Because Snow White LOVES! pink, we decided to paint the green with pink. Here’s what it looked like “before,” when our friend Paul was building a banister for the bunk beds earlier this year.


And “after” the green went pink. The green ceiling stayed green.


Snow White is all about blue, so the blue walls were right up her alley. I put pink curtains in Rose Red’s bed and blue ones in Snow White’s bed. We also put pink curtains on the windows and rolled out a new rug for the floor. And I had to come up with a new tree idea for this room. I have always wanted to do a tree with a spiral of color and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. The tree is nine feet tall, the ceilings are twelve feet (perfect for the built-in bunks!). My brother and his wife gave us this tree when the lights quit working. Genny and I took all the pre-lit strings off and redid the tree with warm white LEDs.

twins' tree

Our middle daughter, who has been a wonderful helper this Christmas season, made this large wreath to hang on the wall over the twins’ dresser.


And a smaller wreath to hang on the door to the bedroom.

twins' door wreath

DH put up the circle garland around the room. I made that in 2011 to hang in the dining room windows.

"snow tree" in the dining room

All in all, the girls’ room came together very well. They love the new touches and the spiral tree was very popular at the open house. Last, but not least, Buttercup thinks it’s a great place for a catnap.

twins' room

Only fifteen days until Christmas!


menu plan monday ~ december 8, 2014

We had a big day yesterday. About 190 people attended our annual Christmas Open House. Thanks to all who came. We so enjoyed seeing you, meeting first time guests, and enjoying the holiday spirit with everyone! Next post is about that!

Our younger son and his wife are here from Seattle, Washington. They will visit until Wednesday, then head to her parents’ home for a few days, before flying back to Seattle. Yesterday all five of our children and their families were here at the same time. I love it when we can all gather together. This evening we plan to have a gift exchange with our son and his wife while they are here. So everyone will be back again this evening. Love this time of year!

The menu has to be planned with some consideration of the week’s events. This should take care of it.

Ham or Turkey Sandwiches
Crackers and Cheese
Three Cheese Spread
Veggies and Beau Monde Dip
All the Christmas Cookies and Truffles you could care to eat…

Baked Ziti
Green Salad
Garlic Bread

fake baked ziti

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Heat Free Chili

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Fridge Food

Beef Roast / Carrots / Potatoes in the Crock Pot
Green Salad
Steamed Green Beans

You’ll find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Only 17 days until Christmas!