Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year - 2009

Twenty minutes to midnight and my boys and I are just back from our annual New Year Eve's dinner with our friends (hubby is out of town on a trip - such is the life of an airline pilot!). What a great night we had. Japanese steakhouse, white elephant exchange (don't even ask what the items were!), fireworks and fun.

We are so blessed! Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for a great year! My only resolution is to be back at the exact same place with the exact same people next year! If that happens I will be a happy woman!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

A couple of weeks ago my mother sent all of her children a letter in her Christmas card announcing she would not be buying any of us gifts this year; spouses and grandchildren included. No, she wasn't mad at us or stumped as to what to give us this year.

Her letter explained that she loves us all very much, is very proud of us and extremely thankful that we are all so abundantly blessed. She went on to explain that her heart was telling her the right thing to do was to give the money she would have spent on presents for us to those less fortunate this holiday season.

When I read the letter to my boys, ages 12 and 10, I wondered what their reactions to the news would be. Would they be disappointed there wouldn't be a new video game or a jersey from their favorite team under the tree from Grandma this year? Or would they understand the message in my mother's heart? After I finished reading the letter they both looked at me, and without missing a beat said "Grandma's right, we are blessed. That's a great idea."

My heart was thankful for my mother's giving spirit and for teaching my children the true meaning of Christmas; it is better to give than to receive.

Merry Christmas to all!

Love, Gail

Monday, December 22, 2008

CHECKING HIS LIST



Santa Claus was out and about tonight checking his list. Jacob, Danny, Patty and Eli, hmmm, naughty or nice? Baby Sofie, my god daughter, was definitely on the nice list!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are You Ready?

My friends are a little concerned about me. We went out for our annual peeps dinner last night (Big, fat, fun!) and more than a couple of my girlfriends are freaking out because I really haven't done much Christmas shopping yet. What's the hurry? There are still three FULL days of shopping left. I do best under pressure and I'm sure I'll find the perfect gifts! Besides, how hard can it be to find fruitcakes for everyone on my list? It's one stop shopping!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Holiday Decorations


My absolute favorite part of my holiday decor is our Christmas tree. Several years ago I had a rare brainstorm and came up with the idea to print photos of my family and friends in sepia tones on parchment paper and hang the pictures on our tree with raffia. The idea was to create a "family tree" and it quickly became a tradition. All of my friends and family members end up on the tree every year and it's gotten to the point where party guest wonders "if they'll make the tree next year". I just print my favorite pictures on parchment paper in a sepia tone, cut them out and tie them on the tree. Party guests always have fun trying to find themselves on the tree from year to year.



Do you remember one of my first posts when I blogged about my favorite auction find: "Pearl"? Doesn't she look pretty all decked out for the holidays in her custom wreath, rhinestones and pearls?

Over the entertainment center I continued the branches, evergreens and ornaments theme I started in the living room. This time I used a rusty old urn for the base, added the branches, painted JOY (my personal mantra) over an old oil painting I got at an auction for $10 with chalk board paint, propped up a beat up old suitcase and some vintage photos and I was done.


I always hang the sled my husband spent many an Ohio winter on as a kid over the mantel. Covered up the mantel shelf with more evergreen, magnolia leaves, pine cones and white lights, and added a string of cranberry beads to hang photos of the my boys with Santa over the years. Our tree is much smaller this year so I tossed the leftover photos into a galvanized bucket and hung it on an old meat hook.


The coffee table was a recent estate sale find and it's enormous! I think it's an old school table that was cut down to coffee table size. My kids think we could hold a dance on it it's so big! I threw a piece of burlap over it, added an old tool carrier filled with greens and the family room was finished!

I hope you enjoyed the photos! Come back tomorrow to see the rest of the house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ansel Adams, I'm Not!


Well I tried my best to take some good photographs of my decorations but I'm definitely not a photographer! I tried reading the camera manual for some tips but quickly put that away (too much left brain thinking was required for this right brained girl!) and I may still have a friend help me take some better pics but until then I decided to go ahead and post what I've got. I'll start with the living room today.

You may remember from a previous post I was having trouble finding inspiration for this year's decor. I resorted to praying to the decorating Gods (to no avail) and procrastinating with the hope something would just come to me. I eventually wandered outside to pick up sticks in the yard and that's when inspiration struck. I decided I would take the largest branches I found, bring them into the house, and somehow find a way to decorate with them. I thought it would be really cool to hang simple ornaments from the branches, add some sparkle, a few lights and see what happens. I really like the results but I don't think it shows well in the pictures.

I also used a lot of burlap because it has a great texture, goes with the natural look I was after and best of all, it's cheap. Let me know what you think of the results:

This is a picture of my two boys from last Christmas that I have on an antique ice box just inside the foyer of my front door. I clipped the berries from a bush in the backyard, added some greens and magnolia leaves and a simple burlap bow.


Continuing on into the foyer, this is the view to the left into my living room. I LOVE Cheetah fabric and have yards of it draped as a portiere to frame the door and add a little drama before entering the room.


My living room is a really dark chocolate brown, with taupe furniture and icy blue accents. I decided to play off that theme by adding burlap to the end tables, more evergreens and combining those elements with things I display every day. I got the gold mirror for free at an auction on Maryland's eastern shore because no one wanted it, the old pocket watch dangling from the lamp was picked up at an estate sale for a couple of dollars. The old photograph and trophy cup were picked up at a flea market.




Another end table in the living room, with found objects, greens, old sailing cups picked up at an estate sale.

Now for the sticks, branches, twigs, etc. I wanted to add a little drama behind my sofa so I placed three old mirrors I had around the house (again, picked up at estate sales or auctions) on the sofa table, and stuck large branches into florist foam I put inside an old trophy, and then added the glitz: chandelier crystals, a crystal swag, sparkly ornaments in bronze, gold, and cream. I also added some pictures I had. On the left is the classic Blue Boy (found at a barn sale) and on the right, a much more solmen lithograph of a woman praying I bought at an auction. I liked the contrast between the two figures.






I love big clocks and have four or five of them in my house. This one is in the living room so I draped it with some evergreens and added a couple of ornaments.



For the typewriter which sits on an old trunk, I typed the words to the classic "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...." article that was originally published in the New York Sun in 1897 and added an old passport, greens, and sparkly snowflake for a little glitz.


I'll post more of the decorations tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Decoration Photos Coming Soon!

It took me most of last week to decorate, clean and prepare for the Christmas party my husband and I had Saturday night. And it has taken me the rest of the weekend and the first two days of the week to recover from all of the excitement! But, I finally have my energy back thanks to lots of caffeine and plenty of sleep. I'm trying to get some great photos of my decorations but photography is definitely not one of my talents!

The ones I've taken are either too dark, over exposed or do nothing to show how pretty everything looked. In fact I'm so frustrated with the results I've pulled out my camera's manual to try to get some tips on taking better shots. So, please don't abandon my blog yet, hopefully I'll have some up by Wednesday morning! If you have any tips I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EUREKA!!!!

The tree is still not decorated. Hubby is out of town, the kids aren't in a hurry to hang ornaments and I've been too busy procrastinating to work on it, so there it sits, beautiful in its simplicity, but waiting for more.

In the meantime I was really starting to worry about what kind of new twist I was going to put on my holiday decor. Every year I decorate with the same type materials; heavy on the evergreen branches, grapevine, raffia and white lights. But I usually try to do something new. Last year it was the addition of great, apothecary jars filled with pine cones and berries. But this year, nothing was coming to me. I kept walking around my house, praying to the decorating Gods for help (you know, Martha Stewart, Eddie Ross, Les on Gardenweb, Charlotte Moss, even my crazy old neighbor Mrs. Dempsey. She was nuts, for sure, but man, did she have style!) ; my heroes. But no. Nope. Nothing. As in not a thing, zippo, squat! Not a single inspiration came my way from the decorating Gods. (I guess they were just too busy fluffing pillows and whipping up quiche to help The Kramer Angle Out. Hmpff.... )

So I did what I do best. I found something else to do. I procrastinated a little more. I went outside to pick up some sticks after heavy winds swept through the area. And that's when inspiration hit!!! Like a bolt of lightening, as soon as I picked up the first stick I knew, just knew, what I was going to do. I laughed at the decorating Gods! I'm "The Kramer Angle" I don't need them, I found my own inspiration!!! So, I'm excited. I think it's going to be really, uh, different, and I'm going with it.

(Okay, let's face it folks, you know as well as I do desperate times call for desperate measures. Who knows? My little "inspiration" might just suck. I think it will be cool, but we'll have to wait and see. The fact of the matter is this: I'm three days away from hosting a party for 100 people. I'm desperate. I've got to do something................)

Keep checking back for photos of the inspiration. Oh, and just as a side note. If for some reason aliens decide TONIGHT is the night they come down and kidnap me, I'm well aware people (like the F.B.I., fedora wearing, wrinkled trench coat type folks) will be in my house looking for clues. My house doesn't normally look like a wind tunnel just went through it. Please explain to the feds that sometimes inspiration just gets a little messy before it gets cleaned up....... Oh, and maybe you could offer them the iron. It's in the hall closet.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Lights are On (Mostly)



In my last post I told you my favorite part of decorating for Christmas is finding the perfect tree. My least favorite part? Putting on the lights, no doubt about it. Now my husband has pointed out (ad nauseum, I might add) that if we had a pre-lit artificial tree I would have gotten to the actual decorating part of the tree hours ago. Of course, I dismiss the very thought of it, remind him of the Meenachan family tradition of big, beautiful real trees and get back to the task at hand.

Fifteen sets of lights, two hours and three extension cords later I still have bare spots on the tree and I'm starting to get a little frustrated. (Don't you dare tell my husband!!) We can send a man to the moon but we can't invent Christmas lights that stay on!!!!???? Who can I call about this, there's gotta be someone in charge......

I better go find a couple of more strands to add to the tree. Grrr.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tree Traditions


It was always my family's tradition to pile the six of us into the car a couple of days before Christmas to go out and find the family tree. It wasn't an easy task because we could never agree on which of the hundreds of trees was the perfect tree. We all knew the criteria though: it had to be the biggest, best tree in the entire forest, and no one was satisfied until we found it. The problem was everyone's vision was different and we all had an opinion on each other's choice of a tree; It was either "too tall, too skinny, too bare, too Charlie Brownish". Usually family consensus came shortly after our toes and fingers started to freeze from walking around in Ohio temperatures too long.

Once my husband and I had kids I knew I would continue with my family's tradition. My husband had other ideas. He's the guy that would happily go to Target and buy an artificial tree if I let him. Well that's not going to happen! There's tradition that needs to be followed!

Picking out our tree is my favorite part of the holiday preparations. My husband (reluctantly), kids and I usually head out to the country to find the biggest, fullest tree we can to cut down. One year my husband was on a work trip (he didn't seem too upset to miss the tradition that year!) and my kids and I had to go get the tree without him. On the drive to the tree farm I regaled them with stories of all the trees my family had growing up, reminded them of their roots and explained there was tradition that had to be followed and it was not to be taken lightly. I told them how my family was famous in our neighborhood for always having a Christmas tree that practically filled the whole room. It didn't matter that our living room wasn't large and a small tree would have been better. We were the Meenachans; Meenachan's didn't do normal size trees.

Well my kids didn't waste any time following that tradition. I am not kidding you when I tell you the tree we cut down required three men to hoist it to the top of our van for the trip home. I could barely see out the side windows because the branches were hanging so far down off the roof. It was fantastic!! We were laughing at all of the puny trees we saw on the roofs of other cars, thrilled that our tree was bigger than any other we saw on the way home. Turns out that tree was so huge we couldn't fit it in our front door. (I was secretly thrilled and knew the Meenachan's would be proud of me!) After many failed attempts to fit the tree through our front door a friend literally had to cut it in half so we could get it in the house. We used half of it as a tree and the other half for wreathes! You can't fight tradition when it's in your genes!

My second favorite part of the Christmas tree is decorating it. This year's choice is sitting in the stand waiting for the lights and ornaments. Hopefully it will be decorated by tomorrow evening and I'll post photos of it then.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Decorating

I remember when I was a child we didn't buy our tree until a couple of days before Christmas. (No one ever dared to mutter the word "artificial" in front of my dad let alone think about buying a fake tree!) Now it seems like I'm way behind in decorating for the holidays because many of my neighbors already have their lights up and their tree aglow in their front window! I can't decide whether they're organized or rushing the season just a wee bit.

I'm not too worried about it though, because if I am behind the rest of the world, that's okay, because I work best under pressure. We're hosting our annual Christmas party on the 13th and I can guarantee I'll still be decorating hours before the party starts. That's when my creative juices kick in. I'm not a good planner so I work best in panic mode! I have started thinking about how I'm going to decorate but who knows how it will turn out until I get started.

I like to decorate with natural materials, lots of evergreen branches, berries, pine cones, grapevine and other things I can find growing on the side of the road. (My husband calls it weeds!) Here's a peek at what I did last year.

I hung this wreath on a mirror I placed on top of an old door I have in my foyer. The door is from my childhood home (mom still lives there) and it sat in her garage for about 25 years after they got a new door. A couple of years ago I asked her if I could have it and the next thing I knew she was loading it in my van! I love it because it's a piece of my family's history and it's a great conversation starter!


I have a thing for clocks and I'm sure it has something to do with how I feel like life is going by way too fast! The clocks remind me to slow down. It also helps that none of them actually work so I have a false sense of a slower pace!


Our tree is always my favorite part of my decorating. I'll tell you why in my next post.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Reflections

I know it's the day after Thanksgiving and most people have moved on to thinking about the next holiday and are out shopping today, but I'm still thinking about my blessings. A few years ago my husband started answering "Living the Dream", whenever anyone asked him how he was doing and I loved that response the first time he said it. It's so true. We are living the dream. I'm living the dream. My kids are living the dream. Not every day is lollipops and rainbows but that's part of life.

Knowing there are ups and downs in life, that "this too shall pass", appreciating the good times, and just recognizing and KNOWING JOY is a profound blessing. I am blessed beyond belief; and I'm thankful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

FAMILY PET - M.I.A.

For about a year my youngest son begged us to buy him a corn snake for his birthday. He claimed a corn snake would be the perfect pet because they don't smell, are easy to take care of and don't cost a lot of money. Not to mention they're really high up on the "cool factor". I'm not opposed to pets, I love animals and my kids have had lots of them.

There was the goldfish that lived five years (I am not joking!), the tree frog that lasted two, not to mention our big fluffy dog, Daisy, that's been a part of our family for a couple of years now. No, I love pets. The only thing that bothered me about getting a corn snake is that they eat mice. I'm terrified of mice. We caught a mouse in our basement almost two years ago and I haven't been down there since.

So, my son wore me down and we bought him a corn snake for his birthday in September. He named him Cornelius, and my husband ordered 240 frozen pinkie mice on the internet. They arrived at our door shipped in dry ice and packaged like little frozen hot dogs. When it was time to feed the snake my son broke off a pinkie, thawed it in a bowl of water and fed it to his snake. Trust me; I made sure I was out of the house when that lovely little event occurred.

Cornelius died a month after my son's birthday. He was devastated. (I quietly pondered what I'd do with the 230 frozen mice I still had in my freezer. Hmm, Craig's List or eBay?) We had a funeral in the backyard with all the trappings; candlelight, a nice cardboard coffin lined with tissue paper for Cornelius while he rests in peace, beautiful eulogies were offered. I couldn't stifle a small giggle in the middle of my husband's moving, heartfelt words about how he had come to love Cornelius. It just seemed funny in a bad television sit com kind of way. My son heard me, turned, and looked up at me with tears in his eyes and I silently thanked God for giving me the words to explain to him that humor sometimes helps us get through times of grief. My son understood, wiped away his tears, went on to profess his love for Cornelius and vowed he would never forget him. It was no longer funny, my heart ached for him and I cried with him.

Three weeks ago we got him another corn snake. He couldn't settle on one name so he calls him King Cornelius II, Cornelius 2 or Thomas Cornwallace. I call him "lost". Sometime between Thursday night and this morning the snake got out of his cage and is nowhere to be found. We've spent the last two hours searching cabinets, under the refrigerator, in the floor grates, and behind the furniture. According to the internet "lost" snakes can live in your house for months before they turn up. I guess I better hold off advertising "Free: 223 pinkie mice" on Craig's List, again..

I'll keep you posted......

BREAKING NEWS, BREAKING NEWS! ALERT, ALERT!

Miraculously the snake has been found! We set a trap that included putting a warm, wet towel on the floor next to the wall with the theory the snake would be drawn to the warmth and moisture in the towel. The next morning we left for Florida and didn't even look under the towel because I didn't think the trap stood a chance of working.

But low and behold when our friend came over later in the morning to take our dog to their house for the week he looked under the towel and the snake was there! So, I'm happy to report the snake is now back in its container. Which means the 200+ pinkie mice in the freezer aren't going anywhere...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Remembering Leo


Today would have been my dad's 74th birthday. He's been gone five years and I miss him now more than ever. It's interesting to me because there was a time in my life when I didn't need him and I didn't miss him when it was months between visits. Somewhere along the way though, things changed, I did miss him and I did need him. I became a parent myself and for the first time I understood him a little better. I understood that parents are only human, with their own lives, their own successes and their own failures. I focused a little too much on his failures for too long.

Once I embraced him for who he was, our relationship deepened. I'll never forget the love he had my for kids, how he told me he was proud of me over and over, how he taught me to finally catch a fly ball when I was 42 years old, and how he was still trying to give me advice until the end. I remember giving him a hard time in the hospital because he was trying to give me directions home from New Jersey; a trip I had driven dozens of times. He said "I'm your father, it's what I do." So I let him.

The last words he ever said to me were "I love you, very, very, very much." It doesn't get any better than that. I love you too Dad, and miss you so much today and everyday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Country Auction


Truth be told I've been going to country auctions since I was a kid and it's probably because of my mother I love them so much. When I was about eight years old my mom took my siblings and I with a friend of hers to an auction in Pennsylvania run by the local Amish community. They sold all kinds of things, furniture, baked goods, livestock, etc. If you've never been to one you really should go because they're great fun. The only problem with an auction is that sometimes you can really get caught up in the moment.

To say my mother got caught up in the moment once would be an understatement. I remember the auction was out in the country, in a big red barn and there were hundreds of people there, farmers, families, and lots of members of the Amish community. Even as a kid I was fascinated by the auction. It's really cheap entertainment to watch who buys what, listen to the rapid fire chant of the auctioneer, and to make sure you don't bid on something you don't need like an antique meat grinder or some other crazy thing. Like a pony. Even if it is the most beautiful pony you've ever seen.

Now buying a pony at an auction is probably a really smart thing to do under certain conditions, i.e., 1) you live on a farm, 2) you actually have the money to buy and feed a pony, or 3) you're not buying it because your kids think it's "so cute"! And just so you understand, my family lived in the city, we didn't have a barn, we barely had enough money to pay the bills and shouldn't have been pleading with my mother to buy us a pony. But we did. And she bid! And she kept bidding and bidding until it looked like we were really going to be the proud owners of that pony. In my mind I had already named her Skipper, knew she'd be happy living in our garage and saw myself feeding her delicious red apples from the tree in our backyard. We couldn't believe our (usually) sane mother was actually bidding on a pony for us, and were jumping up and down with excitement! I remember thinking, "Dad's not going to like this!", but trusted my mother had a plan and knew what she was doing. It was all so crazy and unbelievably wonderful! We were going to have our very own pony!

And that's when my mom's best friend, "Aunt" Darla stepped in. She literally grabbed my mother by the shoulders to shake some sense into her and made her stop bidding for our pony. We looked on in horror as we realized our dream was slipping away! Skipper! My mother tried to keep bidding, and struggled valiantly to raise her paddle just one more time, but Aunt Darla was just too strong! She forced my mother's auction paddle from her hand and restrained her until the bidding stopped. Next thing I knew the auctioneer pounded the gavel, pointed to the Amish family sitting near us, proclaimed them the high bidder and awarded them the pony. Our pony. Beautiful Skipper. (Did I mention she was chestnut color with a snow white strip of hair just above her nose?) And just like that, the dream, that never even had a chance to grow, was over.

Now, I can't let it be said my mother didn't immediately realize the mistake she had made. You know, whipping her children into a fevered frenzy, leading them to believe they would get a pony, bidding with an unabandoned crazy lady fervor we never knew she had in her, knowing full well we were all picturing ourselves galloping on the back of our new pony. She sensed our deep disappointment, saw our heads dropped in sadness, and knew she had to make it up to us. So she did what any mother would do. She bid on the very next item up for bid. A rabbit. Suddenly Aunt Darla didn't seem to mind my mother's bidding. She didn't stop her when the auctioneer called for final bids. She knew rabbits only need a box to live in, not a fancy stall, can live off scraps and would never need green pastures. She was okay with the rabbit and made no attempt to take the paddle out of my mother's hand. Oh, no, Aunt Darla thought it was fine that we have a rabbit. For a pet. Oh, how I wish she had grabbed the paddle that time. Trust me when I tell you, rabbits are no where near as much fun as a pony. Not that I'll ever know. (Thanks Aunt Darla.)

Alas, we didn't get the pony but I'll never forget my mother wanted to give us that pony. Now that I'm a mother myself I completely understand a mother who so loves her children she can easily get caught up in the moment! And that still means everything to me!

(Now that I think about it maybe my kids would like to go to a livestock auction. I wonder if they still sell ponies.....)

Ever since that first experience at the auction I've been hooked. When my husband and I were newly married we lived in military housing not far from a large Amish community on the east coast. It wasn't long before I found myself at the weekly auctions held by the various Amish and Mennonite communities. The thrill of the auction is that you never know what you'll find, each week is different.

We now live about an hour's drive from one of the best weekly auctions on the east coast. Dixon's Furniture Company in Crumpton, Maryland holds an auction every Wednesday, 51 weeks out of the year. It's amazing. There are simultaneous auctions being conducted on three football size fields and in an enormous indoor warehouse. The amount of stuff being sold is staggering and the cast of characters frequenting the auction is just as interesting. Antique dealers, junk dealers, and homeowners from as far south as North Carolina and north to Vermont converge on tiny Crumpton every week.
You just never know what you're going to find.

Here are some of the "treasures" offered at the Crumpton auction today:

Victorian style sofa sold for $80. Don't you think it would look fabulous recovered in linen and painted out in a soft cream color?








I think this old wash tub would be fabulous filled with ice, beer on one side and wine on the other for a party. I think it went for $40!



Four stenciled chairs went for $40.


A dealer told me these came off the top of old barns. They went for $480 for the pair.


$40 for a sweet painted table.


An example of the "you never know what you're going to find" rule!


This is one of a pair of carts. I think it would be cool in the right space topped with an old board and used as a buffet. They sold for $125 each.



Check back tomorrow, and you'll see some things I picked up at Crumpton, including my all time favorite; "Pearl".

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Fun AND You get Awards, too!




Okay, this whole blogging thing is TOO much fun! Not only do you get to write about whatever you want whenever you want, there are people who actually give awards for it! Check out my first blogging award! One of the things I've learned in my two weeks of blogging is that fellow bloggers often hand out "awards" to blogs they like and "The Kramer Angle" just got its first award from Tardevil at www.confessionsofa40-somethingmamaqueen@blogspot.com. Be sure to check her blog out - especially the title - you gotta love it! Somehow she found "The Kramer Angle" and has sent me the sweetest e-mails about my blog and has been so helpful with blogging tips. Thank you Tardevil!

Now I need to pass it on to some of my favorite bloggers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CRACKER JACKS?

I told you in my previous post about the great baseball themed party we had to celebrate the publication of Jeff Potter's new book, Whatever Happened to Baseball? (available at Amazon.com - yes, that's a shameless plug!) Who knew a book signing party would lead me to ponder "Whatever Happened to Cracker Jacks?"

I bought boxes and boxes of Cracker Jacks to use as part of my baseball decor for the party and used them in various displays around the house. After the party was over someone needed to eat all of that popcorn, so I decided to get started on a box or two! I hadn't eaten Cracker Jacks in years, and I was happy to discover the popcorn was sticky and crunchy; just as I remembered it. The "prize" inside was not. All of those leftover boxes of Cracker Jacks really got me thinking about the one family heirloom I know we'll never part with; Grandma's memory jug. (Oh, and just in case my mom is reading this; I would never part with the oh so fabulous spoon collection she got me from Home Interiors in the 1970's!) Hmm, I wonder where those spoons are.........

Anyway, have you ever heard of a memory jar or jug? If you're lucky you can find them every now and then in antique shops or folk art galleries. Memory jars are vessels that were made by placing everyday items such as tokens, bits of jewelry, shards of pottery, etc., into a clay that covered a jar, bottle or crock. I found out online that some experts think memory jars have their roots in Southern Black communities where they were placed in cemeteries for use as grave markers. The vessels were covered with trinkets that belonged to the deceased person.

There's even the theory that memory jugs were in a sense the precursor to scrapbooks and started during the Victorian era where "sentimentality reigned". Whatever their start, my husband's grandmother had one and he and his brother have fond memories of looking at it when they went to visit Grandma because they never knew what would be pressed into it on their next visit. In fact, Grandma used to let them press the prizes they got out of Cracker Jack boxes into the clay when they visited.

Several years ago my in-laws thrilled me when they gave us the memory jug! It's awesome and I have honestly never seen one so large. If you look really close you can see some of the treasures in the jar. Old pins, plastic toys, screws, a strand of pearls. I love looking at it and wondering where the items came from, who put them there and imagining the thrill my husband had as a child looking at it. (Keep in mind this was way, way before video games were invented. Back in the day when kids were amused by simple, honest things!)

Grandma's Memory Jar



I found out on the official Cracker Jacks website they were "first invented in 1893. According to legend, a unique popcorn, peanuts and molasses confection that was the forerunner to Cracker Jack caramel coated popcorn and peanuts was introduced by F.W. Rueckheim and Brother, at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago's first World's Fair. Then in 1896 Louis Rueckheim, F.W.'s brother and partner, discovered the process for keeping the molasses-covered popcorn morsels from sticking together. Louis gave the treat to a salesman who exclaimed, "That's crackerjack!" "So it is," said F.W. Rueckheim, who then trademarked the words."

"Then, in 1908 the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was written by Jack Norworth, who wrote the lyrics during a 30-minute subway ride, and Albert Von Tilzer, who composed the music. Cracker Jack brand was immortalized with the third line, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Finally in 1912 a marketing genius decided to put a A Prize in Every Box" and toys were inserted into every package.

Isn't it amazing that 115 years later we're still eating Cracker Jacks, listening to "Take Me out to the Ballgame" and signing along with Meatloaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad":

I know you're looking for a ruby
in a mountain of rocks
But there ain't no Coupe de Ville
hiding at the bottom
of a cracker jack box

That's all great but whatever happened to the great prizes inside? You know, little "diamond" rings, plastic cars, trinkets and little ballerinas. You won't believe how lame the "prize" is in boxes of Cracker Jack now. My "prize" was a little piece of paper asking if I could guess who the boy pictured grew up to be. Pull back the paper and SURPRISE it's Andrew Jackson! WHOOP DE DOO! Being the optimist that I am I decided maybe I had a little bad luck and just got a lame box so I opened another one just to make sure, certain this time I'd find a little rocket or spinning top. Nope. Same paper, different person, this time it was Susan B. Anthony. I kid you not; check this out:





That's not a prize; it's history class. Can you imagine trying to make a memory jar out of those "prizes"? Someone please tell me, "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CRACKER JACKS?"
*(information obtained from www.crackerjacks.com)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Whatever Happened to Baseball?

Hi sports fans! Have you ever wondered whatever happened to baseball? I bet you're like most people and never knew there was anything wrong with it!

A friend of mine, Jeff Potter, who is also a local coach, wrote a book called "Whatever Happened to Baseball?" that's recently been published. It's a really great look at what baseball used to be like when the author was young, how it has changed, the effect it has on kids, and how that translates off the field into life's lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and think there are many lessons in the book adults need to be reminded of as well. If you're interested in the book, it's available at Amazon.com. Copy and paste this link to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=whatever+happened+to+baseball&x=0&y=0

(The book would make a great present for the sports fans on your list this holiday season!)

My husband and I had a really fun book signing party for Jeff over the weekend. He spoke to the group about his experiences, and then autographed some books for his "fans". (You can't have baseball without baseball fans!) I had a great time planning the decor and just played off the whole baseball theme. I had lots of Cracker Jacks, peanuts, sunflower seeds and big league chew displayed in fabulous apothocary jars. For the dining room table I filled a large, rusty wire urn with old baseballs and stuck an American flag in it. We even had lots of great baseball food; hot dogs and plenty of icy cold beer!

Have you ever wondered "Whatever Happened to Cracker Jacks"? I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and I'll show you why tomorrow.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS!

I love people! There are so many good, kind people in the world just out there doing their thing, living their lives, quietly influencing others by their example.

I "met" just such a person today and I'm so thrilled! Remember day one of my blogging life? (Come on people, it was only three days ago!!) I said one of the reasons I wanted to start blogging was because I've been obsessed with reading other people's blogs for months and thought it would be a cool thing to do. You name it, people are blogging about it. Kids, dogs, sports, conspiracy theories, it's all out there! I'm drawn to blogs about decorating because that's one of my passions.

There's one particular blog I felt an instant connection to from the first day I read it. The woman who writes it, Rhoda, posts about all of the things I'm interested in. As a decorator she helps people turn their houses into homes, she re-purposes furniture and accessories, loves a good bargain and is totally into garage sales. All of the things I love!

So, yesterday I sent her an e-mail through her site to introduce myself and tell her how much reading her blog inspired me to start my own. I just wanted her to know that I love her blog because it's "real". It's not high brow, hoity toity (I have no idea how to spell that!) out of reach design that most people could never afford. I honestly didn't expect to get a response.

But I did! She sent me the loveliest e-mail thanking me for my words and encouraging me with my new adventure. Not only that, she added my blog address to her list of favorite blog sites! So now everyone who goes to her blog can click on thekramerangle and end up looking at my new blog!

Isn't that amazing? How sweet is she? People are so good!

Thank you Rhoda!

This is the link to her blog (my favorite!):

http://southernhospitality-rhoda.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Heavenly Humor

I think God has a sense of humor. Don't you? I tend to be a little bit of a worrier when it comes to my health. (Hang nail? Nope. It must be cuticle cancer.) I don't worry about anything else, I really don't. Economy? It will rebound. The Browns? There's always next year. Rain? It's liquid sunshine.

But with my health, I worry. A lot. (Just ask my husband.) But sometimes I think God puts things in front of you to remind you of how blessed you are. Like this morning. I met someone who faced serious, life threatening health issues. Not just once. Twice. But she survived and is thriving. So I felt like God gave me a little heavenly kick in the ass to get a grip and stop worrying about my insignificant little hang nails.

Meeting someone like that definitely tends to give you a new perspective on things. So, after talking to her I just felt better. You know, breathing a little easier, enjoying the crisp fall air, looking at the big picture a little more clearly kind of thing. And that's when God stepped back in.

Driving down the road a cargo truck pulled right out in front of me. Now, not just any random truck. That happens all the time. This was a big old, white truck with "The Batesville Casket Company" written on the side in enormous green letters!

It cracked me up. Just as I was starting to get comfortable, I felt like was God was saying, "Okay, Kramer. You're fine, quit your useless worrying; but don't get too cozy. Appreciate life and how blessed you are." Life's too short to worry about things out of our control!

Now, my more practical friends would say the only thing that happened today was that I met someone and a truck cut me off. But to me; it was a sign from God.

I love signs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some of My Favorite Music

Thank You!

Wow! I'm so humbled at the amazing response I have gotten to my little old blog. It's not even 18 hours old and I've already had 12 hits. (Okay, so 10 of them were mine! You gotta start somewhere!) Thank you to everyone (okay, mostly me!) for making it such a huge hit already. I just have a feeling this thing is going to be big!

(Note: I'm hoping my readers appreciate sarcasm!)

My church was having a Red Cross blood drive today so I went to donate this afternoon. The first time I donated blood was when I was a senior in high school (a REALLY, LONG time ago). At the time I was pleased with how effortless it was and how good it made me feel knowing I was helping someone in need of my B+ blood. So, I started to donate a couple of times a year for a long time. Imagine my surprise today when the Red Cross staff member told me the last time I donated was in 1995! I couldn't believe it! Just another example of how "time flies". I'm definitely not going to wait another 13 years to donate again. (By the way, the good feeling came right back!)

So, now I'm wearing a little sticker that says "BE NICE TO ME, I GAVE BLOOD TODAY"! And guess what? It's working. I'm having a great day!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Kramer Angle Begins

Hi,

Welcome to "The Kramer Angle"!

For the past three or four months I've been obsessed with reading blogs devoted to interior decorating, motherhood, daily musings, etc., and have finally decided to start my own blog. I'm not sure what I plan to "talk" about yet, but I'm not usually at a loss for words, so I'm sure I'll come up with something every now and then!

So, when you have absolutely nothing better to do; the dog has been walked, the toilets have been scrubbed, and the kids aren't home, come back and check out "The Kramer Angle".