Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves ar
e so unchanging.
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

This post is a tribute to our Dad and Mom - who with great foresight, devotion and hard work - created a Johnstone family Christmas tree tradition that will be remembered by many for years to come. After 45 years, the business is winding down. But Angie is ensuring that a small plantation is maintained up north by the cabin to provide trees for family and friends for years to come.

We have asked our "guest blogger", D
ave, to write the tribute. Kathryn Johnstone Grafsgaard

By Dave:

I got in on the tradition of the Johnstone Christmas tree business about a decade ago. The only reason I’m writing this post is because the sisters handmade are still hand making for the people who decide to order Christmas gifts at the last minute, or for their own gift-giving needs.

A few times on the way back from deer camp I would stop and help cut trees on the Johnstone tree farm adjoining the house, and at the property "Up North". Glen had carefully marked the trees so a knucklehead like me didn’t cut the wrong one. At the time, these trees were shuttled over to Glen’s Tire, where they were sold in the parking lot. Several times a season a run needed to be made Up North to grab a few more trees to restock the homemade wagon wheel tree stands at the tire store. Glen is not a guy to give up on a vehicle and on one such trip the hood latch broke at 60mph on Hwy 65. We just pulled over, yanked the hood down, and wired it to the bumper. No big deal.

When the trees got to Mora and were purchased, the dead needles were shaken off in Glen’s invention, the Rube Goldberg-like ‘Shake-O-Matic’, a contraption into which the trunk was inserted into, the unit switched on, and then shook the hell out of the tree. Lots of people in Mora and the surrounding area bought their trees from Glen and probably more people, including the Catholic Church, were given trees. Glen and Jean,being very charitable folks, have often given trees to those who stop by right before Christmas after likely spending most of their limited funds on gifts for their family. This is a labor of love for them.

The tree planting began in the early ‘60s. Margie, daughter 2, remembers trips Up North with her little girlfriends to walk behind Glen during planting and stomp the seedlings in. Once they are planted they need to be sheared in the heat of the summer. With the heat, humidity, and a mosquito or two (thousand) this is not the most popular part of the Christmas tree business. Daughter Angie has stepped up over the years for this thankless task and as a result the trees always looked great. Angie continues her tireless efforts to help manage the plantation.

Thanksgiving weekend each year marks the beginning of the cutting. Kathy, the eldest, remembers being stuck under a pine tree in the snow Up North and told to keep an eye on her younger sisters, of which there were only a couple at the time, while Glen went off to cut trees. She figures she was about five years old at the time.

I was supposed to arrive for cutting one Saturday morning at 9am to help Glen and Angie’s hubby Paul. I rolled in to the tire store at around 9:45 and when they asked me what the holdup had been, I told them I had stopped by the house and was filled in on the morning plan by Angie. Knowing nods and the remark that ‘in that case I was right on time’ followed.

The idea to sell Christmas trees was initially to make a few extra bucks for Christmas presents for the rapidly expanding Johnstone clan. The first trees sold for a buck in 1964. In 2008 dollars a buck would be about $7.50 so tree costs have not outpaced the Consumer Price Index by much. Jean’s main job was as the ‘tree twirler’. The tree needed to be spun around so the discerning prospective buyer could make sure the entire tree fit the space and d├ęcor in their house. Of course most guys would just head down and buy the first tree they see without paying much attention, much less requesting a ‘twirl'. Many of them would be back shortly with a sheepish look on their face after being ripped by the missus, and instructed a bit more specifically on what they needed to look for. You can bet these guys asked for a twirl.

David, 5th kid in the clan, now owns Glen's Tire - and has contributed a great deal to the sales at the 'shop'. Living the closest to home, he has always been loyal and 'on call' for the tree business - often offering the services of his great employees in a pinch. Mark, the 9th 'kid' in the family, being a tree guy and lumber professional - is 'jack of all trades', and is always around to lend a hand. Tess, Anner and Erik offer moral support from Colorado and when back in Minnesota are sure to be Up North surveying and enjoying the land.

There are lots of great stories! One memorable incident occurred when an over the road trucker, deadheading home, cut a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree from the side of the road. When he noticed the beautiful trees at Glen’s Tire as he rolled down Hwy 23, he figured he better stop and get a decent one to avoid any marital criticism when he arrived home. Unfortunately he was tapped out, no money. Jean gave him the tree and wished him a merry Christmas. On his next run through Mora he stopped and paid her for the tree.

Over the years many folks were given trees and a number of trees were delivered right to people’s home, a mission that I’ve participated in a few times. One time a customer was looking for a specific size and type of tree and the perfect tree was growing right in the front yard of the Johnstone home. Glen cut er’ down and the customer went off with a tree and a great story as well.

A few years back a new priest arrived in Mora after doing a stint in Africa. He was so pumped about the snow and winter that he insisted in heading Up North with Glen to cut down two perfectly matched trees for the front of St Mary’s Catholic Church. The duo made this trip an annual event for a few years.

Since 1964 there have been thousands of trees planted, sheared, pruned, cut, shaken, sold, and enjoyed by families in countless homes, businesses and places of worship all over the Mora area and beyond. A tree always made it back to North Dakota on the roof of Kathy's car on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was tradition! She and two tired little boys would set it up quickly Sunday night - ready to decorate during the week.

As I sit and type this post I’m looking at and smelling a perfect white pine, my favorite tree on the planet, that came from Glen and Jean’s land. Its hard to overstate all the hard work that went into the trees but as I look at our white pine (large retro colored lights that we had when I was a kid, by the way) I have to figure it was worth it. If you think of all the folks that have experienced the same enjoyment that we are over the years, the people that bought or were given trees, it has to make Glen and Jean smile just a little bit inside. It was a great run.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hand Dyed Wool Turned Felted Stash Bowl

In a previous post I talked about my adventures with hand dying wool with black walnuts. I managed to turn the wool into something and I wanted to share it. Imagine that...a felted bowl! The color ended up being much lighter than I wanted but it is a lovely winter white.

Containers, organizers, declutter baskets, stash bowls, jewelry holder...I just can't seem to get enough of these. I have felted bowls all over the place in my house. I am surprised that I can keep my shop stocked up because my daughter steals all the cute ones she wants to keep.

On this bowl I added a little leather lacing for embellishment which can be used to hang earrings! (a shout out to my mother in law for that idea)

I have other felted stash bowls in my Etsy shop in which I have added embellishments. It adds a little character to each bowl. I have also been making personalized bowls with names, inspirational words and so on. I recently made one for a customer with her business name on it...kind of fun!

Check out the funky earrings (see photo) that I made for my daughter.

They are felted swirls in her favorite color and the other pair is a chain of felted circles. She told me recently that people at school tell her she has the coolest earrings. She is still young enough to admit to her friends that her Mom made them. I will take the compliments from her while I can...teenage years are right around the corner.

Until next time...Anne

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Jyri Scarf by Berrocco- Norah Gaughan

This summer we were camping in Grand Junction with Anner, Jimmy and kids, and Nancy Koepsel. We were up for the weekend biking at Kokopelli bike trails, just west of Grand Junction. While we were there, we were looking at this catalog that sold very very expensive clothes but they were really beautiful. On the front page of the catalog was a lady modeling a sweater, leggings, and a very nice cashmere scarf. I said to Nancy, "What is about this picture that looks weird" She said that "there is no snow". Yes, it was one of those models you see holding a pair of skis and you know for sure by looking at the ski equipment and the model, that they have never skied in their lives. For some reason, I am attracted to the old photos taken of people with skis, even if they don't know how to ski. I love all the vintage photos from the old days. I have a whole bunch of them and will get them organized and share them someday. If anyone has any old photos to share, please do so. I love looking at them and reading about where it was taken.
This photo was taken by Jason. I was modeling a scarf that I made for my friend Marilyn. Thank God there was some snow in the photo! Tess

colourmart yak/mohair/silk/merino

Slide Show of our Hand Made Items Using Smilebox

I have been playing around with slide show programs today. I thought I would give this one by Smilebox a try. I loaded photos from our Etsy websites and here is the result. Let me know what you think.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Slide Show
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Treasury Made it to Front Page of Etsy!

I wanted to give a shout out to all the sellers included in this treasury.
I also wanted to see if I could add this cool widget into my blog post and it looks like it works!

I posted about Possum Season Treasury created by TheVintageBearLair. I received a message today that it made it to the Front Page of Etsy!

Congratulations to all of the sellers selected and thanks to TheVintageBearLair for including us!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finally have a moment to take a few runs.

Magnus has been busy working up on the North sea as an Environment Engineer but decided to take a trip to the States. He Flew into Albuquerque New Mexico and traveled throughout the western half of the US and finally found some snow in southern Colorado. Magnus is a telemark skier and has been skiing ever since he was a kid. He has some relatives up near Denver Co so he will eventually end up there during the Christmas Holiday. I think that he is happy to be on vacation and skiing in the worlds best snow. Well, hopefully he will get to experience some more powder before he departs for Oslo, Norway in January.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Felted Nesting Bowls Featured in a EtsyTreasury!

Sorry, I don't mean to 'toot my own horn' but I thought it was interesting that I had just written about creating a treasury and then I was featured in one. Happy Day!

Recently I wrote about creating a treasury on Etsy which is a website where you can sell your handmade items.
Today I received a message from TheVintageBearLair informing me that she selected my felted nesting bowls for her treasury. How fun! I thought I would go ahead and mention a few of the other sellers that were selected. Some of the sellers that stood out for me were Stemellina from Athens Greece. The photo of the felted necklace is listed in her shop. Her items are gorgeous! She creates felted brooches, earrings, hair pins and much more.

Another seller lisazain has a pair of vintage suede oxford lace up pumps listed in her shop. How fun are they? She has vintage shoes, bags and other fun items.

Etsy, besides being a place to sell handmade items, is also a site that has lots of vintage shops. The items have to be older than 20 years...hey girls...maybe we should look through our closets to see what cool items are hiding in there.

One more shop that is super fun in this treasury is Blubies. This seller creates cute cuddly creatures with socks and felt. She is inspired by her surroundings in the Blue Mountains of Australia. I will definitely be researching this region to learn more about it. Check out these fun shops on Etsy and let's continue to support the handmade community. There is something for everyone!

Here is the link for the treasury...Check it out ...
Possum Season Treasury

Until next time...Anne

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creating a Treasury on

I have been working on putting together a treasury on Etsy. Etsy is a site where you can set up shop and sell your handmade goods. It is an awesome site and there are tons of talented people selling on this site. A treasury is a list of sixteen items plus four alternate items that you choose. It is not for self promotion but to show case other wonderful sellers. The other great reason to create one or be featured in one is that they sometimes make it to the Front Page of Etsy. This is like striking gold for the handmade seller. If people can see you featured on the main page then there is a chance of success which is wonderful!

I of course included my two sisters who have shops which are kmgrafsgaard and mjstoneleather. They are super talented and make wonderful items! Kathy specializes in devotional beaded jewelry such as rosaries which are spectacular. Her inspiration comes from the Great Lakes region where she spends tons of time. This region feeds her soul and it comes across in her jewelry pieces. A popular seller for her are the Psalm 23 bracelets which are breathtaking. Margie has been in love with leather for as long as I can remember. She still gets giddy every time her shipment of leather arrives in the mail. She worked for Berman's in Minneapolis which was established originally in the late 1800's as a hide and raw fur dealer. This is a great indicator that her items are made from pure L*O*V*E. Check out their links or click through to their shops from our blog. Maybe Margie will fill us in on the history of the Berman's company which eventually became Wilson's Leather.

In my search for treasury items I have discovered shops that make items with stones, metal, fibers, beads, leather and much more. One particular shop I found while browsing around was ConnectedElements. This gal is from northern Minnesota and her shop consists of jewelry pieces that are made from stones, different metals, glass and the items are truly unique and interesting. Another shop I found called LimeGreenModern is based in Colorado. She makes very modern and simple silver jewelry pieces which are classic and stylish.

Yet another shop is LinenMe...she has purchased from me in the past and is from Lithuania. She makes linens to die for! I love her linen hand made scarves and hope to purchase one from her someday soon.

I am having a couple of problems in creating my treasury and that is waiting for a spot to open up. You have to wait until the treasury number drops to 333 which is a bit difficult to have the patience and time for. The second is deciding who to include since there are hundreds of incredible shops to choose from. I did find a helpful tool called poster sketch where you can make a "sample" of your list and arrange it like you want. This helps a lot so when you do get a spot you are ready to go.

Wish me luck and hopefully I will snag a treasury spot very soon.

Until next time....Anne

Monday, December 7, 2009

USS Arizona

Pearl Harbor

It seems like when this day comes around, I think of all the soldiers and citizens that went through this surprise attack from Japanese zeros on Dec 7, 1941. In 2005, we finally got to see the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. We went to the visitor center early in the morning and got in line to visit the Memorial out in the bay. We ended up being the last two to get on the launch for the first wave of visitors.
Once we got out there, we got off the boat and walked around the Memorial and nobody said a word. For nearly a half hour, we just looked into the water and onto the shores of where the USS Arizona was moored. The boat was resting on the bottom of the bay and you could see the hull but that is about it. We could see the docks where all the battleships were. The Arizona was not the only ship that got hit. There were a lot of fatalities on the other ships as well. If I remember right, the Park Rangers told us that a lot of the larger carriers were out to sea so it could have been a lot worse than it was.

If this isn't on your bucket list of things to do, I would highly recommend a visit. Tess

Friday, December 4, 2009

US 2 1/2-ton, 6x6 Trucks in WW II

Most people call them Duece and a 1/2 but in WWII, these trucks were the workhorse of the war. They typically hauled medical supplies, troops, and ammunition. They were made by GMC in 1941 and nearly 800,000 were made. There were other manufacturers but GMC was noted to have the best design and capabilities. The original design was powered by gasoline but in later years was converted to diesel truck.
The duece and 1/2 was also used in the Korean War, Vietnam, and some use in Afghanistan. The trucks that were used in Vietnam were under daily attacks by the Vietcong guerillas so they mounted armoured plates and armed the trucks with 2 x M60 7.62mm machine guns. This allowed the soldiers to get supplies to the fronts. In the first photo, The U.S. Ninth Army GMC CCKW truck, just after crossing the Rhine River, March 1945.

The second photo is another duece and 1/2 that is used at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Thunderbird tour company uses these trucks to do tours in the canyon and the Canyon de Chelly maintenance uses them to run supplies into the canyon. These little stray kitties were sunning themselves on the hood of the truck last week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back to "Class" at the Kennedy School

We are heading to Portland, Oregon this morning to visit GGG's oldest son and his lovely significant other. This is a repeat of last December's trip to this fabulous city.

We will be making a return visit to The Kennedy School - one of the very unique McMenamin properties. This is wonderful school was built in about 1915 in a trend-setting single story design. It was saved from the wrecking ball in 1997 by McMenemins and local supporters. Check the website for more history - it is fascinating!

In my former career as North Dakota's 'chief lunch lady', I traveled to Portland and other cities frequently. But traveling for work - especially with little guys at home - left no extra time for exploring destination areas. I am enjoying travel much more now, since it is a true vacation.

I wasn't able to check out the school lunch program (I instinctively head for the lunch room when I get to a school) at the Kennedy School last year because the cafeteria has been transformed into a restaurant for hotel guests. But in addition to other art in the building, we came across this vintage National School Lunch Week poster. I just had to have my photo taken by it - for old time's sake!

We are really looking forward to another stay at this fun place - and showing it to our traveling companions, Deb and Rick. I can hardly wait to see the 18' spruce Christmas tree in the lobby, and a visit to the "Boiler Room Bar". We will be 'sleeping in class' again this year - as the classrooms are the hotel suites. They retain the original blackboards, have plenty of chalk for doodling, and are loaded with charm.

This hotel is a Portland treasure, and I highly recommend it! More later....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dolls, Dolls and more Dolls....

When I was a kid I did not want to have anything to do with dolls, dresses or anything 'girly'. Bring up this topic to my Mom and she will tell you...I was a pill. I remember First Communion when I refused to wear the traditional white dress. My Mom, exasperated by her youngest daughter, finally relented by letting me wear a lovely corduroy green blazer and pant ensemble. I was so tres sheik in my Dorothy Hamill haircut and boyish blazer. I figured she had plenty of girls to dress up all feminine and frilly. I was the last girl and she did have six other girls to play dress up with. (just joking Mom) I was such a Tom Boy that the only dolls I would play with were the Johnny and Jane West dolls which were dolls straight out of a western movie scene. Click on the link to check out the commercial which is pretty funny. I did love these dolls, horses and all of the accessories they came with. I have seen them in antique stores with very high price tags. I suppose a person could check out Ebay for one of these retro items...*pondering if one needs a Jane West doll*

Anyway, I found this great site with information about the history of the Kewpie doll. Tess recently posted about her kewpie doll and I did some further research on the subject. Check out the "Margie" kewpie doll isn't she sweet? Did I just say a doll looked sweet? But seriously, isn't she sweet? Ok...truth be known, I don't mind dolls but only the ones handmade by my Grandmas and of course the Tom Boy dolls from the Marx Toy Company.

Our Grandmas were very artistic, crafty and talented. They gave their daughters and granddaughters many dolls over the years and I have a few in my home. The two women had totally different styles but were equally as talented. Grandma Stafford hand stitched all of the detailing on her doll clothes. Incredible!

Here are two photos showing their different doll making styles. The doll in the long gown is a president's wife (I believe) and was made by my Grandma Stafford...does she look familiar to anyone? The little girl doll with freckles and hand crocheted dress was made by my Grandma Fritche. Isn't she cute?

If there is anyone who knows about the history of the kewpie doll or loves to make dolls...send us a comment...we would love to hear from you. Of course I would love to hear about anyone else who was obsessed with Johnny and Jane West dolls...

I will close for now so I can go have "flashbacks" about playing with my Tom Boy dolls, with my Dorothy Hamill haircut and dreaming of the day I could get a real horse. ahhh those were the days...

Until next time...Anne