Category Archives: Christmas

Making Spirits Bright

Our family Christmas tree 2017

It’s been a full three days of decorating at my house!  Generally, I have my decorations up by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but since we went to the beach I got a late start.  Normally I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get it all done by tonight, but I’m having my Fiesta board over for dinner on Thursday night and I want it to be just right!

Of course, instead of just doing what I did last year I decided a change was in order.  Don’t ask me why I do this to myself but I decided I wanted my front door and staircase to be silver and gold!  This meant buying a new green artificial wreath and finding just the right plastic gold and silver ornaments to use.  In the process, I also needed new lights for the swag over the door as well as the staircase.  Little bits of inspiration were hitting me all week as I pulled out items I haven’t used in a while.  I have a set of Southern Living at Home very heavy silver glass ornaments from way back.  I used to simply put them in a large vase in my bookcase but this year they’ve taken on a new look hanging from rhinestone ribbon and evenly spaced out on my staircase!  I actually found three extra of these ornaments at the thrift store a few months back so it must have been meant to be!  I’m loving the look…and the sparkle!

My front door wreath turned out pretty nice too, if I do say so myself!  This despite THREE finger burns with the hot glue gun!  Yikes!  I don’t know what was wrong with me today but that hot glue kept wanting to stick to ME rather than the ornaments!  I had two sizes of ornaments and decided it needed some smaller ones to fill in the gap so I headed to the Dollar Store for those.  I used the leftover plastic ornaments to make bundles of silver and gold to use on the outdoor swag and one I hung in the entryway.

Tonight, we decorated the family Christmas tree…me, my husband and my daughter, Emily.  It was a little bittersweet for me.  Generally, the last act of decorating for us is on Sunday night and all the kids make a point to be home to help out.  We take bets on how many of my Hallmark ornaments Eddie will break.  None this year…YAY!!!  We added just a few new Hallmark ornaments to my huge collection this year so they are safe until next year!  I always try to add the most ornaments to the tree after the rest of the family gives up.  All that is except for my son-in-law, Ryan!  He always sticks with me to pack the tree full!  Still…it was nice to spend time talking with my sweet Emily and watching Eddie look for gaps in the tree so we could fill them with ornaments.  We listened to Christmas music on Pandora and sang along.   Our annual family photo in front of the tree will have to wait until everyone is together over the holidays.  I look forward to that…

 

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It’s a Wonderful Life!

The 50th anniversary commemorative book on Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’m in the midst of decorating my house for Christmas and I have worked hard to get everything organized by room.  Several years ago, I took a week in January and sorted and labeled all my decorations to make it easier each year.

The largest box in my collection is the one that holds my “It’s a Wonderful Life” village.  This Frank Capra movie is one of my all time favorites and when I found the  village at Walgreens many years ago, I was so excited.  In fact, I was a little late to the village collection party it would seem.  There had been several buildings already out in previous years from what I gathered.  They were made by Enesco.  I started my search and eventually accumulated 7 of the buildings from Bedford Falls including, Gowers Drug Store, The Bijoux theatre, Ma Bailey’s home, Bedford Falls Trust and Savings Bank, the high school, the church and of course, the Sycamore House.

I also managed to find Ernie Bishop’s yellow cab.  Other IAWF items are in ornament form including Martini’s bar.  I also found the Mark Twain book that Clarence was reading, the Bedford Falls sign, and the movie poster in porcelain.  Two unique ornaments are the televisions I discovered displaying a scene from the movie – one with George Bailey and Mary Hatch singing Buffalo Gals and the other when George is running through town in the snow after he wishes to be alive again.  Centering all of these ornaments on greenery I put over my bakers rack display is a Hallmark ornament with Mary, George and Zuzu representing the iconic scene when the famous words are spoken by Zuzu – “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings!”  The ornament also has a little bell on the bottom.

I’ve looked for additional pieces over the years and some are pretty sky-high online!  I also discovered that Target had an IAWF village too but I never saw that one in the stores.  I would love to add a few more items I’ve seen to my village but right now I love the way the display looks every year on my kitchen bakers rack.

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? – Clarence Oddbody

Last scene in It’s a Wonderful Life movie…

Deck the Halls!

Zuniga-Odom Christmas Tree 2016

Zuniga-Odom Christmas Tree 2016

It’s officially Christmas at our house!  While everyone else was shopping on Black Friday, I was at home getting all our Christmas decorations out and up around the house.  It doesn’t take as long as it used to since I organized my decorations by room and labeled everything.  It took a little time one year after Christmas but it was so worth it!

On Friday, my husband did his part and put our pre-lit tree together. Later that day I added some large white star lights to it and got it ready for the family to decorate it together today.  We’ve had a full house this weekend and it has been so nice.

Our 2016 Hallmark ornaments to add to our growing collection.

Our 2016 Hallmark ornaments to add to our growing collection.

So after a late lunch of left-over taco soup, I put on some Christmas music and we got started.  As I mentioned in my Hallmark Obsession post a few days ago, I add to my Hallmark ornament collection every year.  I always put the new ornaments out on the dining room table for the kids to see and then they race to add their favorite to the tree.  Then the singing and the storytelling begins as everyone sifts through the two large storage containers full of Hallmark ornaments dating back to 1973.  At some point someone – usually my husband – remarks that the tree is getting full and there is no more room.  I am always determined to prove him wrong and keep adding in little nooks and crannies.  I’ll also rearrange a section to add a larger ornament to a limb where a smaller one is taking up too much space.  My kids swear I rearrange most of the tree when they are gone but that’s not true.  Instead, I walk around the tree to see which ornaments they have selected to adorn the tree that particular year.  We have so many that I love to see what strikes them as special.  My son-in-law, Ryan, is a real trooper and hangs in there with me to keep adding ornaments when the others have given up!  This year he broke one of the ornaments – which is really not a big deal – and I said “that’s why we have super glue!”  He said “now I really feel like part of the family!”  Usually, my husband, Eddie is the one who breaks something!  Everyone had a good laugh about that…

Our ginormous collection of Hallmark ornaments in these two huge storage containers.  I used to put them back into their individual boxes for many years but it got too tedious so I just keep the boxes in the attic now.

Our ginormous collection of Hallmark ornaments in these two huge storage containers. I used to put them back into their individual boxes for many years but it got too tedious so I just keep the boxes in the attic now.

After the tree is complete, I unveil the family ornament.  Each year since 1989, when my son was born, I have bought a handmade ornament with our names and the year on it.  I never really thought about what a tradition this was until I had collected about 10 years worth.  When we got Lucy, our pup, I added her to the ornament.  Now we have added my son-in-law, Ryan and their pup, Lucia.  So my challenge has been to find an ornament with space for 8 people on it.  I like to select it myself and make it a surprise for everyone each year.  I’m so glad I accidentally fell into this family tradition and love looking at the different designs from over the years.

The 2016 Odom family ornament!

The 2016 Odom family ornament!

Finally, we take family photos in front of the completed tree.  I can always count on this being one time of the year when we are all together and can get these photos so I really do cherish them.  Kind of like first day of school photos…I always knew I would get those too!

Admiring our tree this year...

Admiring our tree this year…

Soon after the photos were taken, all the kids scattered and went to their respective homes.  The house is quiet again.  I stopped briefly to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the tree against a background of Christmas music.

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My Hallmark Obsession

My collection of Hallmark Mary's Angels ornaments.

My collection of Hallmark Mary’s Angels ornaments.

I blame my mother…  She worked at a Hallmark shop when I was in high school in the 70s and got our family started on Hallmark ornaments.  I still have the original yarn ornaments that used to hang on our tree!  Years later, mom managed Hallmark stores and so access to these cute and sometimes whimsical ornaments grew.  The ornaments started to change too.  Aside from Snoopy and others, they became more elaborate and even expanded to current movie characters.  The number of ornaments offered each year also grew.  In fact, July became the month when Hallmark would unveil their Ornament Book and put up displays in their stores!

I’ve been collecting Hallmark ornaments for over 40 years now.  Our family tree is nothing but Hallmark and each year when we gather together to decorate the fun begins.  My kids will recall an ornament and a story behind that particular one.  They laugh and tease each other remembering something about when we bought that one or how special it was or silly.  The stories are endless and I love hearing them!  We joke about my husband and how he always manages to drop one or break one – thank goodness for super glue!  We have so many ornaments in our collection now that I would need two more trees to accommodate them all!  When my kids and my husband think we are finished, I’m keep adding more to the tree.  They give up, but I’m determined to pack it as full as I can!

The Mary's Angel tree that I have in my dining room every Christmas.  I think I'm going to need a bigger tree next year!

The Mary’s Angel tree that I have in my dining room every Christmas. I think I’m going to need a bigger tree next year!

I have several favorites on the tree each year, but probably my all time favorite series is Mary Hamilton’s – Mary’s Angels.  A few years back I decided to put these angel ornaments on a separate tree in my dining room.  They are small and delicate looking angel children and they are adorable.  This year is the 29th year for the Mary’s Angel series.  The angels are all named for flowers and their outfits are based on the floral color.  This year’s angel is called Zinnia and her design pays homage to vintage china dolls.  Robert Chad is the Hallmark artist responsible for bringing all of Mary’s Angels to life.  They are incredible works of art in my opinion and I love that they have a special place in my dining room each year.

Zinnia - 29th in the Mary's Angels series...

Zinnia – 29th in the Mary’s Angels series…

I think I have almost all 29 of the angels in the series.  Last year they issued a special “Magic” ornament.  These are the ones that have sound and/or light.  In this case, there are two angels holding lanterns that light up and the song that plays is “This Little Light of Mine.”

My home is all decorated for Christmas as I write this.  The only thing left to do is to gather the family on Sunday and add the Hallmark ornaments to the tree and share stories.  I am looking forward to that…

 

Vintage Christmas Pins

Beautiful vintage Christmas pin I found at Prime Time Treasures in Homewood recently.

Beautiful vintage Christmas pin I found at Prime Time Treasures in Homewood recently.

And now a brief break from Thanksgiving planning to check out all the Christmas pins I’ve found thifting over the past two weekends!!!  I have a rather large collection of Christmas pins and I love clustering them on a coat or jacket in December each year.  This year I feel like I hit the mother lode!

The wreath and tree on the right are ART(c) marked and considered very collectible Christmas pieces! I love the colors on the tree to the left - no markings on this pin but very art deco looking.

The wreath and tree on the right are ART(c) marked and considered very collectible Christmas pieces! I love the colors on the tree to the left – no markings on this pin but very art deco looking.

Several of the pins I found would be considered vintage.  About 8 have markings so I got out my magnifying glass to look a little closer and started googling.  Three of the pins are marked “ART” followed by a small “c.”  I was able to find the pins on ebay and etsy and a little history of ART(c) company.  Arthur Pepper was in business from the late 1940’s making jewelry signed Mode Art, later changing the name to ART(c).  The Christmas tree pins are considered the most collectible and I found “my” Christmas tree pin going for $65 on ebay!  They definitely have a distinctive look to them.

ART(c) Christmas boot, Christopher Radko penguin pin and Gerrys Jewelry Co. puppy dog pin.

ART(c) Christmas boot, Christopher Radko penguin pin and Gerrys Jewelry Co. puppy dog pin.

Another pin is marked “Gerrys” – it’s on a gold tone dog pin holding a red Christmas stocking in his mouth.  I found it on ebay for $49!  Remember, I pretty much paid a high of $1.99 for these pins or low of 99 cents!  Anyway, Gerrys Jewelry Company or Gerrys Creations was in business from 1950s to 1996 and is considered affordable costume jewelry.  I just thought the pup pin was cute and kitschy!

The tree pin on the left is a JJ(c) Jonette Jewelry Company piece. The tree on the right has no markings.

The tree pin on the left is a JJ(c) Jonette Jewelry Company piece. The tree on the right has no markings.

JJ(c) marked a really sweet and faded looking Christmas tree with tiny colored rhinestones.  Jonelle Jewelry Company was named for the parents of Abraham and Nathan Lester – John and Etta.  Abraham first started the Providence Jewelry Company and when his brother joined him in the business they changed the name.  They started using the JJ mark on their jewelry in the 1970s.

These pins have no marking that I could find. The Santa in the sleigh moves along with the other pieces attached. Pretty unique!

These pins have no marking that I could find. The Santa in the sleigh moves along with the other pieces attached. Pretty unique!

Finally, I was surprised to find a Christopher Radko Christmas pin!  First, I didn’t know Christopher Radko made pins…I just thought he was known for those beautiful and colorful glass ornaments that I would love to have a tree full of…but I digress… The pin is a penguin wrapped in Christmas lights.  Very sweet and looks like something I had when I was a little girl.  I found these pins online between $16-$24.

These pins look newer but cute all the same!

These pins look newer but cute all the same!

There are still several more weeks to go before Christmas – I feel like I’m on a roll with these pins and I’m ready to find a few more of these cute and vintage pins!

Mexican Tin Ornaments and Thrift Store Scores!

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A treasure trove of Mexican tin ornaments my mother found for me recently during a thrifting adventure!

Mexican tin art is a mainstay on my Mexican Christmas tree every year.  I love the shapes and colors of these lightweight ornaments.  I’ve collected them since the 1990s and always look for stores that carry the ornaments in particular.  My last big haul was last year when I visited Austin, Texas at a cool store called Tesoros.  They had quite a selection to choose from and wish I could have come away with more but honestly…I had to leave some for the other shoppers too, right?!

Last week my mother paid a visit to my favorite thrift store – The Salvation Army in Hoover.  She confessed she went in only for a few moment and now two hours later she was still roaming around and finding all sorts of goodies!  After a few trips around the knick knacks, she spotted a sandwich bag with something shiny and colorful.  Turned out to be a baggie with 10 Mexican tin ornaments!  For one dollar!!!!!  She brought them to me that very evening and while they look a little worn, they are still so beautiful to me.  I think the wearing of the tin and the color gives them a certain antique character.  And I also think I might need a bigger Mexican Christmas tree this year with all these new ornaments!

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The red color on this ornament is brilliant and this is one design that I didn’t have – happy to add to my collection!

Meanwhile, this past weekend I went to the grand reopening of another favorite thrift store – the Salvation Army store in Homewood, AL.  The place was a madhouse!  I found a few items but nothing that I couldn’t live without, especially with the length of the checkout line!  Then I went to the jewelry counter – which was also packed – and gave it a look.  Loads of beautiful things…still that growing line was a concern.  I turned to walk toward the door when I spotted a long table filled with Christmas pins!  Wow!  I felt like I hit the mother-load of pins – something else I love to collect.    I spotted one vintage Christmas tree pin and then another…and a lady holding one handed hers to me when she saw my interest.  I thought that was nice!  Then a saleslady showed up and said, “let’s put these in a baggie with your name on it and it will be ready for you when you check out.”  I thought – “ok, let’s do this!”  Then the saleslady started suggested pins and earrings to me to help me fill my bag.  It was rather amusing.  I’d say – “sure, put it in the bag!”  And she would!

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Such a unique necklace! This Mexican tin piece is adorned with a nativity scene!

The most unusual item I found in this sea of pins was a necklace.  I wasn’t sure what it was at first all clustered together on the table, but it was made of Mexican tin – I knew that for sure!  The saleslady picked it up and said it was a nativity scene and she thought it was beautiful.  I agreed but then again, the necklace had me at “Mexican tin” and so I told her to add it to the bag!

Well, the line to check out got even longer while I was browsing these pins, earrings and the necklace.  I figured I would leave the store to run some of my errands and come back before 7 p.m. to pick up the jewelry.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make it back and figured it was just as well.  Wasn’t meant to be and all that.  Still, I kept thinking of that Mexican tin necklace and how unique it was…

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So Monday at lunch I decided to take a ride over to the store and look around minus the 250 people who were there on Saturday!  I went right to the jewelry counter and much to my surprise there were no Christmas pins anywhere!  That was puzzling with all that they had on Saturday.  Had someone come in and bought the entire table of pins?  I checked the other jewelry counter and but found nothing there either.  Then I saw several baggies of jewelry on the back of the counter.  Mine was still there!  SCORE!!!  Was I excited?  You bet!  Couldn’t believe my good fortune!

I left the store Monday with a baggie full of vintage pins, the Mexican tin necklace and also a talavera pottery piece that I spotted right before check out!  The colors on this talavera piece are perfect for my kitchen.  It will be a nice addition to the Zuniga-Odom talavera collection!  This is why I love thrift store shopping so much – you never know what you’ll find!

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My Quinceañera Cookie Exchange Party!

Can you smell the sugar?

Can you smell the sugar?

Now that Day of the Dead is over, I like to begin planning my annual cookie exchange party!  Last December was my 15th year to have a cookie swap and I always like to work with a theme.  Last year, since it was my 15th year, it made perfect sense to celebrate it as my Quinceañera!  (More on what this means in a moment!)

Every year my invitations go out at the beginning of December.  Everyone brings 12 dozen of their ONE favorite cookie and they leave with 12 dozen DIFFERENT cookies!  I always have margaritas, taquitos, and other snacks and my mother brings her homemade salsa!  I shared her recipe for this salsa last year in a blog post – check it out!  It’s delicious!

It’s always funny when someone new comes to the party.  When I say bring 12 dozen of one cookie – they usually contact me to make sure they read the invitation correctly!  So I’ve started putting on the invite – “yes, you read that right!  12 dozen of one cookie!”  Anyway…

I always make two cookies or 288 cookies total! Last year I made my usual Mexican wedding cakes and the traditional Mexican biscochitos!

I always make two cookies or 288 cookies total! Last year I made my usual Mexican wedding cakes and the traditional Mexican biscochitos!

Every year I like to have a theme for my party and a special party favor.  One year we were The Real Housewives of Birmingham and I made aprons for everyone with the Real Housewives logo!  Another year, we had tacky Christmas sweaters and I had plenty of extra sweaters for those who forgot to wear one!!!  Another year, I everyone wore their favorite Christmas pins and I gave everyone a Christmas pin as they left.  It’s sometimes a challenge to come up with something new but I love a challenge!!!

So the Quince was a fun theme to work with. As a little background…a quinceañera is a coming of age celebration for a young Latina girl.  It’s like a sweet 16 party but there are several special traditions that take place for a “quince.”  Traditions also differ for many of the Latin American countries.  For instance, in Mexico a young girl might have her Quince following a religious Catholic mass.  A young girls’ godparents will typically give her a rosary, a necklace or bracelet with the image of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe.  She is also given a tiara as a gesture of love from her immediate family and can be interpreted as being a princess before God and the world.  The young girl also typically leaves a bouquet of flowers on the altar for the Virgin Mary.

Cross bracelets for all my guests! They also got crowns!

Cross bracelets for all my guests! They also got crowns!

Borrowing from a few of these traditions, I found some beautiful bracelets with crosses that I used as party favors.  I decorated a small gold tree with these bracelets and everyone got to choose the one that most suited their taste and personality.  I also provided everyone with small crowns to wear for the party.  Honestly, I think everyone was most excited about the crowns!!!  My friends were helping one another by teasing up their hair so the comb attached to the crowns would stay in place.  It was comical and fun and I even pulled out a can of hairspray to help out with all this!  My dog, Lucy also wore a crown – and I seriously don’t know how it stayed on her head but she looked cute and fit right in with everyone else!

Me and Lucy wearing our crowns!

Me and Lucy wearing our crowns!

Now back to the cookie swap…

All the cookies are placed on my dining room table in their original containers.  Remembers, this is 144 of one type of cookie!  The smell of sugar is always overwhelming and the presentation is always beautiful!  I encourage everyone to bring an empty container that will hold 144 cookies but in case they forget, I always provide large boxes for them to use.  Next we all gather in a circle around the table and everyone begins by taking 8 cookies from each type.  We tend to get into a bit of a bottleneck around the table and it becomes quite amusing with some of my more competitive friends who urge those ahead of them to “hurry up!”  Seriously, by the time everyone has gotten around the table, their boxes or containers are quite heavy!  Then everyone goes back to their favorite cookie and takes a few more.  It all works out in the end and everyone leaves with a beautiful assortment to share with family, friends and co-workers over the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The cookie swap begins!

The cookie swap begins!

Ideally you would have 12 friends bring 12 dozen of one cookie for everything to come out evenly.  However, over the years my party has gotten pretty popular by word of mouth and photos on social media that I have people ask if they can join in the fun!  I’m all about the more the merrier so of course, my answer is always yes!

This year will be my Sweet 16!!!  Stay tuned for some fun photos and delicious cookies!

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