Oh, how I wish you could be here! The Academy of Vintage Christmas Ornament Arts and Sciences Awards ceremony is not televised (yet), so I will try to convey with words alone the excitement surrounding the awards. Beams of light are sweeping across the tree, illuminating many of this year's nominees, and elfin choirs are entertaining the increasingly restless crowd with songs of the season. I'm hearing a cheer and the jingling of bells - I'm trying to see what's going on - oh! Representatives of Price Waterhouse are taking their seats, signaling that all of the votes have been tabulated and certified, and with that, let the ceremony begin!
Outstanding Performance by an Unsilvered Ornament
Tradition dictates that the first award goes to the unsilvered ornament of the year, and from the reaction of the crowd, it's clear that this true-pink ball with its simple white stenciled trim is a real favorite.
Best Figural Ornament
The aqua teapot with the raised pink rose. (From the judge's notes: "Year after year, we are astonished that any of these teapot ornaments survived, much less with their handles and spouts intact.")
People's Choice Category #1: Best Snowman
Suggested by Linda at A La Carte, the first-ever Snowman Ornament award goes to the stenciled pink Shiny Brite that depicts a snowman on skis. (The crowd is murmuring. Some people are whispering that it looks like a big year for pink. Others are concerned that people unsettled by images of snowmen with legs might stage a walk-out. Nobody seems to be leaving, but there's another envelope being opened.)
People's Choice Category #2: Best Shiny Brite
Whoa! A first in the history of the AOVCOA&S Awards: a double award winner! Ruthann suggested an award for the Best Shiny Brite, and the snowman is (no pun intended) walking off with it. (From the judge: "Our intention is to make the AOVCOA&S Awards a force for social good. Let it be said on this day, with these awards, snowmen with legs are to be considered just as worthy as the more traditional ball-bottom snowmen.")
I don't know about you guys, but this startling development kind of reminds me of the 1973 Academy Awards when Marlon Brando declined the Best Actor Award. I think we're going to move forward and hand out some of the more traditional awards with, I hope, less controversy.
No surprises here: This tiny ornament, with its astonishingly deep indent, features not only an all-glitter body but a handpainted poinsettia motif. (Here to present the award is last year's Indent of the Year, the large West German ball with the church, at right.)
At this point in our ceremonies, I'd like to acknowledge everyone who suggested an ornament award category. A few awards could not be included this year because I did not have a suitable nominee, but it is the Academy's hope that they can be included next year. My apologies, therefore, to Jennifer, of Maine, who asked for the Best Deer ornament. Shockingly, I do not have a deer ornament, or at least one worthy of an award, and I am indebted to her for bringing this to my attention.
My lovely friend Tina suggested "the grandest Christmas ornament," and in her honor, I am adding the Best New Ornament of the Year category, although I can't promise it will be grand. Her daughter, Caroline, suggested a category titled: "How is this related to Christmas, again?" I know exactly what she means. And it will be a lot of fun looking for the perfect ornament to answer that question. Along the same lines, Jenny G. suggested "the best ornament too odd to pass up." I saw just such an ornament a week or so ago. In fact, it was so odd I did pass it up, but on my next visit to this store, I intend to spend the 50 cents required to bring it home. There is pretty much no chance in the world that anyone else will buy it in the meantime. It's that odd.
People's Choice Category #3: Best Patina
The judge was absolutely thrilled with Karina's suggestion that an award be given for the ornament with the best patina. This lovely ornament from Poland is old and worn but fairly glows of its own accord, and that's what patina is all about.
People's Choice Category #4: Best Foreign Ornament
Suggested by dear Amy of Into Vintage, the winner of the first Best Foreign Ornament award is a tiny Putz sheep. Use it on a tree, in a Putz scene or at the manger, this is just the sweetest sheep around - and it has its country of origin, Germany, stamped on its fragile paper collar.
People's Choice Award #5a: The What Were Those Japanese Thinking? award
As Suzy of georgiapeachez and many others know, some of our most regrettable ornaments were produced in Japan, particularly during the 1960s. For Suzy, I will show the back of this ornament. For People's Choice Award #5b, I will show the front of this ornament, but first, a confession.
As a child, I owned a knee-hugging elf. As an adult, I have collected many a knee-hugging elf. Some of the nicest people I know, like sweet Diane, are knee-hugging elf fans.
But I have sold pretty much every knee-hugging elf I ever owned because I do not like them very much.
Okay, so that's out there. I'm anti-knee-hugging elf. They are definitely not as creepy as clowns, or creepy Santas. But they're disturbing. Those pointy cheeks? And that perpetually gleeful expression? They seem overmedicated to me. I do not have them on my tree. Or readily accessible. But I did seem to remember a few of them hanging around in the attic, and thus I present:
People's Choice Award #5b: Knee-Hugging, Alternative-Lifestyle, Tacky, Expressive Elf
This elf does not even have the decency to wear felt. He's wearing lame. (That's lah-may. As in shiny, cheap fabric. Not lame, rhymes with shame, although when you think about it...) He's not even wearing gold lah-may, he's wearing red lah-may. This knee-hugging elf is for you, Carol at Old Glory Cottage, Celeste and Joy. It's for you, Linda, who asked for tacky. And yes, it's for you, MaryKayAndrews , who requested the "Best Alternative-Lifestyle Oriented Elf with Bendy Legs." Because if a red shiny jumpsuit doesn't suggest alternative lifestyle, I don't want to see what does.
That concludes the People's Choice portion of our awards, and not a moment too soon, if you ask me.
Best Merry Christmas ornament
Best New Ornament of the Year
And she has just a slightly frazzled look on her face, which seems ever so appropriate for the season.
And before we conclude our ceremony, just a word of advice. There are lots of after-parties to attend and cookies to eat, but take it easy on the hot chocolate. There is nothing worse than a hot chocolate hangover. At least that's what the members of the elfin choirs are telling me.
I can't believe I didn't tell you about this when it happened, which was weeks and weeks ago at a yard sale. I was buying some boxes of ornaments from a woman, and I spotted something red and white among her piles of stuff. "These?" she said when I asked what they were. "You can have them." And she threw them into my bag before I could really see what they were.
When I got them home, I could not believe my luck!
A chenille candy-cane, spun-head, instrument-playing toy soldier band? Where wouldn't it look good?
The Plow Guy comes about 3:30 a.m. It's hard to sleep through The Plow Guy's arrival. He roars down the driveway about 30 miles an hour, then hits the brakes, backs up and takes a few more swipes. He has the plow adjusted low so that it scrapes up the gravel. By the end of winter, we probably will have a canal instead of a driveway. The Plow Guy is also The Gravel Guy, so I think he must chuckle every time he lowers the plow. I wish to speak to The Plow Guy about this matter. Mr. Oodles has suggested strongly that I do not. I already managed to have a somewhat unpleasant parting with Our Original Plow Guy, and Mr. Oodles reminds me that the first rule of living in Central New York is: Do not (irritate) The Plow Guy. Except he doesn't say "irritate."
Even if I could sleep through The Plow Guy's arrival, Carson cannot. He greets the sound of the plow with alarmed barking, and after all, that's his job, to alert us to large vehicles careening toward us. I lie awake, thinking of all the money we're going to owe The Plow Guy, and then how much we're going to have to pay him for gravel in the spring. It's sometime after 4 a.m. when I finally fall back asleep.
Four out of the eight most recent school days, the phone rings at 5:30 a.m. to let us know there's either a snow day or a delayed opening. Our school district has an automated notification system, so that every parent gets an early morning call to alert them to schedule changes. It's a good idea. It's just that I've only managed to get back to sleep from The Plow Guy's visit when the superintendent calls. (For the record: Out of the last eight school days, we've had two snow days and two two-hour delays.) It seems like it's too early to get up at 5:30. But if I go back to sleep, as I did this morning, I don't wake up until 7, and that feels late.
(The kitchen shelves, decorated for Christmas - that's what you've been looking at as I blather on.) Anyway, these two-hour delays are murder on the schedule, because things are only kind of two hours behind. We really don't know when the bus is going to arrive, and my daughter refuses to let me just drive her to school. (If you get there too early, you have to sit in a room with one of the coaches, and I wouldn't want to begin my day with Mr. Coach, either.) And it's too cold to let her stand at the end of our (plowed) driveway and wait. So this morning we sat in the car for half an hour. It's really hard, the week before Christmas, to do nothing but sit in a car for half an hour.
(All of my Gurley candles wouldn't fit on the one set of shelves, so there are auxiliary shelves nearby.) I am one of those people who does not cope well with change. If one thing in my schedule is different, I'm off track for the rest of the day. Some people might think of that as a certain inflexibility or rigidity, but I think it's just a desire for consistency. I believe it's a positive attribute. Again, others may disagree. (I'm hopeful that Mr. Oodles and I get through this winter with our relationship intact. Especially since winter has not officially begun.)
On the subject of consistency, the annual Academy of VIntage Christmas Ornament Arts and Sciences awards are always the Monday before Christmas. I know most of you already have it on your calendars, but that means it's this coming Monday! This cute little wax soldier is not up for any awards this year, but he's illustrating an important announcement: This year, for the first time in the history of the Awards, someone outside of the Academy will get to name a category!
What that means, friends, is that one of you - yes, you! - will get to choose a brand-new category for ornament competition. Last year's categories were:
Outstanding Performance by an Unsilvered Ornament
Best Figural Ornament
Best Use of Glitter to Represent Snow
Best Merry Christmas ornament
So it can't be any of them. But it can be pretty much anything else you want. As long as I have some ornaments that can compete in the category you suggest. For example, railroad-themed ornaments would be a good suggestion. Except I don't have any. So that's a non-starter. Also, I think the new category will replace one of the existing categories. But I don't know which one. I think Santa probably is safe.
So give it some thought, and leave your ideas in the comments, and don't wait too long, because I have to choose and photograph the winner by next Monday.
Also, if you're worried about what to wear to the awards ceremony, just remember that bathrobes and fuzzy slippers are never out of place on this red carpet.
It probably seems like fun, going to a lot of estate sales and buying Christmas ornaments. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's more like it was on Friday, when the company running the estate sale seemed intent on breaking every rule in the book.
I spotted some ornaments right away. They had no price tags. (Rule #1: Put a price on the merchandise.) A man standing near the table seemed like he might be working there, since he was standing there doing nothing but stuffing Cheez-Its in his mouth.
Me: "Are you working here?"
Him: (munch, munch) "Yep."
(Rule #2: Show initiative. Rule #3: Don't talk with your mouth full.)
Also, just as a general life rule, it's best not to annoy people. You know what's really annoying? Other than people who talk with their mouth full? The sound of a hand scrabbling through a mostly empty box of Cheez-Its. And loud crunching. And the smell of Cheez-Its.
(As an aside: Cheez-Its only smell bad when you aren't the one eating them. If you're eating them, they smell absolutely delicious. The same is true of Doritos, which is why this phenomenon is sometimes called the Dorito Effect.)
I try once again to enlist the help of Mr. Cheez-Its.
Me: "Do you know how much these ornaments are?"
Him: (munch, munch) "Nope."
(Again, refer to Rule #2: Show initiative.)
Me: "Is that something you could find out?"
Him: (munch, munch) "Okay."
One of his coworkers appeared and quoted a price - it was an OK price for a decent box of ornaments, but not a good price for most of the boxes, which consisted of one desirable ornament and 11 really bad ones.
Me: "Can I make up my own box?"
Other guy, clearly offended: "No."
Which was fine by me. There weren't any ornaments I couldn't live without, and I'm betting most of those boxes are going to be sitting there unsold at the end of the sale. But it just seems to me that if you're a good few hours into a sale, and you've only got one customer, and they're interested in buying something, it's in your best interests to at least try to work out a deal. But the whole sale was like that. There was an entire room of stuff - for the sake of discussion, let's say it was model train stuff - and the sales team would only sell it as one big lot, not by the individual piece. You couldn't buy one book for a dollar. You had to buy a set of books for $10. So I was more than happy to be leaving with my five little boxes of ornaments, but my progress was thwarted. At the very moment I am about to reach for my wallet, the staff takes up a discussion of lunch. The cashier looks at me and says, "We're going to order pizza." And rather than wait on me, the one and only person in line, she throws herself into the midst of the rather lengthy pizza negotiations. While I stand there.
(Rule #4: Wait on customers. Then order lunch.)
Mr. Cheez-Its has arrived on the scene to weigh in on the pizza discussion. Meanwhile, I've put aside a little manger scene I was going to buy but decide not to in a passive-aggressive show of my displeasure. The pizza issue settled (one plain, one pepperoni), I finally pay for the ornaments. And just as the cashier hands me the receipt, Mr. Cheez-Its points at me (Rule #5: It is so rude to point!) and chortles. "See!" he yells. "I told you somebody would buy those ornaments!"
(Rule #6: Wait until the customer leaves the premises before insulting them.)
It all began, as things so often do, in lovely Portland, Oregon, where Santa was living happily with Laurie, of Magpie Ethel fame. Apparently Laurie and Santa were reading my blog together, and they saw this post, where there were some Santa snow globes very much like him, and Santa said, "Could I go visit them?" And Laurie said, "Of course!" and she popped him into a box and mailed him to me. And if this were a movie, there would be happy music and sunshine.
But then the scene would change to upstate New York, and there would be scary, horror-movie music and swirling snow. An intrepid mailman would be making his way down a drifted country road at dusk, and he would reach our mailbox and pop a package inside - a package that would not be retrieved until the next morning, because it arrived so late in the day.
So imagine my excitement when I found a package I was not expecting, and inside a note from Laurie explaining what she was sending! And imagine my chagrin when I tore away the tissue paper and found this:
On my way home from an estate sale, I stopped at a thrift store and found another snow globe Santa - this one on skates, underneath a candy-cane dome. He and formerly frozen Santa became instant friends.
As for the estate sale - I found something, but it required dealing with a company that seemed intent on breaking every rule of running a successful estate sale. Details to come.
(And as for you, Laurie: xoxoxoxox)
This happy coated cardboard snowman was a real deal. He was being sold 'as is' at an antique store because at one point there were two smaller snowmen, one on each side, and all that remained of them were their feet. It was very sad. However, by heartlessly removing their remains, I was left with one perfectly good snowman, and he seems pretty happy with the result. It's easy to be happy when you're cute and have a nice crepe-paper bow tie. He's sharing space with the poinsettia canisters I also got in Pennsylvania. This shelf is kind of a tribute to the Keystone State and its abundance of cheap vintage stuff. Love you, Pennsylvania!
(I really do love Pennsylvania, my home state. The sight of the Pittsburgh skyline can make me teary-eyed. I love Pittsburgh. And I confessed to my husband the other night that the only man I'd ever leave him for is Troy Polamalu. This was right after Troy Polamalu ruthlessly karate-chopped the football away from the Baltimore quarterback, setting up the Steelers' game-winning touchdown, I love you, Troy! I love you, Steelers!)
I digress. The little guy above is not Troy Polamalu (note lack of flowing, beautiful hair) but a little spun-cotton Santa who looks like he's being pressed backward into the sleigh by reindeer-induced G-forces.
Huge Gurley Santa candle, once available for $1.29. He's accompanied by some red ornaments tastefully arranged in a Jadite bowl. (As you may recall, the red church ornament was the winner of the coveted Best Performance by an Unsilvered Ornament award at last year's Academy of Vintage Christmas Ornament Arts and Sciences awards. Not to get you overly excited, but an important announcement about this year's award ceremony is coming soon.) The Santa also is accompanied, inexplicably, by a kind of tasteless plastic candle.
I fear I am revealed as a person who not only would leave her husband for a pro football player, but as a person with a certain affection for cheesy, made-in-Hong-Kong Christmas decorations.
Especially if they are equipped with a functioning blinker bulb. You should see this baby at night! It could be mistaken for an airport signal light.
The place of honor on the little Hoosier shelf goes to the still-in-the-box Gurley choir candles. These remind me of one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Bishop's Wife, which has a nice scene with choir boys singing.
I have several Christmas aprons, but these two are favorites. The red and white one was a gift from my friend Tina (no blog, sadly) and the gingham apron and pot holder were made by my mom years ago. Sorry about the glare from the window. That's the result of 30 or so inches of snow. At some point, it's best not to keep track.
Anyway, I ventured from my home today because I was meeting with an accountant who's going to help me get my business (such as it is) all ship-shape and organized. I was not especially looking forward to this meeting, as it involved numbers and paperwork and such, but as luck would have it, I picked (almost at random) a cheerful accountant who collects Hall pottery, pine cupboards and Renwal doll furniture. What are the chances of that?
To reward myself for actually showing up for the appointment, I stopped at the thrift store on my way home. Even though I had pretty much told myself that there is not room for one more Christmas decoration in this house.
As luck would have it, there were no Christmas decorations I wanted. But there was a nice length of sheer flocked fabric in red and green. I loved the colors, although I'm not quite sure what I'll do with the fabric. If you had several yards of it, what would you do? Are curtains the obvious choice?
I decorated the top of my dresser with bottle brush trees and angels. I don't normally go in for a lot of decorations there, but frankly I was out of room elsewhere, and I really like the angels and trees, and it's a shame to not put them out. Also, I'm slightly snowbound.
Eighteen inches of snow yesterday, eight more coming today. You know when you look on the weather radar and there's one little yellow dot where it's snowing more than anywhere else? If you looked on the weather radar for the Syracuse area, you'd see a little yellow dot to the southwest, and my house would be underneath it. We're not usually the yellow dot. Guess it's just our turn.
I had more angel candles than I realized. (That's a familiar refrain, I know.) The little blue candle is new this year. I find it a little perplexing. I think maybe it's supposed to represent a little girl holding a doll playing the part of Mary in a Christmas pageant. Because if it's Mary, that's not a very good representation of Jesus. That child needs some swaddling clothes. Maybe I'm overthinking this.
Repeat of the first photo because I forgot to mention the big bottle brush tree in the middle. It's covered with this soft snowy cotton and I just love it. It was either 50 cents or a quarter at an out-of-the-way thrift store. I'd have been willing to pay upwards of 75 cents for it. It was missing a little snow at the top, so I wrapped a little snowy tinsel around it. I think I talk too much when I'm slightly snowbound.
Since I'm feeling all chatty and all, I might as well mention some new features on Etsy. One is the "copy" feature, which I first noticed around Thanksgiving time. I'd had my own shortcut for recyling listings, but copying is even easier: Just click on "copy," either on a sold or active listing, and you've got a new listing. I used it to list this little Putz house and three more like it Sunday night, and it took me no time. All I had to do was tweak the description and change the photos. (There are a few new things in my shop; all you need to do is click on the sidebar.)
There's another feature, the Activity Feed, which is a lot of fun. When you're signed in, the Activity Feed is the first item in the heading, right after the "Hi, (your name)." You can find out all kinds of interesting stuff there, like who has picked something in your shop as one of their favorites. It can be an ego boost.
Along with the Activity Feed is a new feature called Circles, where you can add someone to your circle - it's kind of like friending somebody. It's a good way to find other shops and see when your favorite people have added something new. Also, it's just nice to look at the photos that pop up.
If someone adds you to their circle, you get a nice message from Etsy, which explains what just happened: "Circles help you explore Etsy in a whole new way! There are many reasons someone might add you to their circle: you're friends, they admire your great taste, or because you're awesome."
You can read more about the activity feed and circles here. I'm just in the process of adding people to my circle, which is another way of saying if you aren't there yet, you will be soon.
One more word on Etsy, and then I'm going to go shovel some snow or something. A week or so ago, I was having a peculiar back-and-forth conversation with a potential customer. Without going into great detail, I was spending a lot of time looking up shipping rates and answering the same question several times. I'd answer the questions on one item, and nothing would happen, and then I'd get the same batch of questions on another item. Although I wanted to go out of my way to make this person happy, I also was getting tired of the never-ending barrage of inquiries.
Out of curiosity, I did what I should have done much sooner: checked feedback. This person had a feedback somewhere in the 50s. I mean, really. I thought pretty much everybody had 100 percent positive feedback on Etsy. You'd have to work at it full-time to score in the 50s. At any rate, after this discovery, I politely cut off the conversation and said I didn't think the transactions were going to work out. To be fair, I think this person lacked a fundamental understanding of how Etsy worked. (As in: If you purchase something, you must then pay for it.) It's just a reminder that as great as Etsy is, it's not perfect, and you might save yourself some time and frustration if you check feedback before you get too deeply involved.
Thank you if you are still reading. I think I have written college papers shorter than this.
Even though the ice rink is shockingly modern (explanation of how I came to own it can be found here) I try to add enough vintage fencing and glittered batting and bottle-brush trees and Putz figures to turn it into a tiny winter wonderland. Today the wind is blowing, the snow is falling, the fire is roaring and pretty soon there will be chili on the stove and cornbread in the oven. And that's my real-life winter wonderland today.
(I don't think it's my son. He mentioned soccer cleats.)
Somebody wanted a Winking Merry Lite tree (batteries not included.)
(Fairly sure it was not my daughter, whose list is heavy on the Hollister. If there is a less inviting store in the world than Hollister, please let me know so I can avoid it.)
Maybe I didn't make a lot of progress on buying gifts for my family today. But somebody in this house was very happy with how the shopping went today.