Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Years Traditions

New Years Traditions die hard.  Can you imagine New York City breaking the news to the world that they have decided not to have the New Years count down and lower the Times Square Ball at the stroke of midnight?

times_square_ballLong ago, I clung to the traditional vision of a romantic New Years Eve….  having a sweetheart give me a New Years kiss…. toasting the New Year with sparkling cider and singing the traditional song,  “Auld Lang Syne” with the rest of the common horde.

(By the way… “Auld Lang Syne” translates as “old long since” or “times gone by.”  Bandleader Guy Lombardo played the song, for the first time, at a New Year’s Eve party in New York City in 1929.)

Well, my traditional romantic dream of having a sweetheart give me a kiss and singing the “Auld Lang Syne” and drinking sparkling cider at a fancy New Years event never happened.

In the early years, my husband bid me farewell every New Years Eve to sing with a dance band, who played “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight and watched everyone else kiss their sweethearts… and toast with “whatever.”

In later years, we usually stayed home with the kids and banged pans on the front porch at the stroke of midnight.  For some reason… I still felt a little cheated.  I still longed for the “romance” of a fancy New Years event.

Then the grands came along…. my dreams came true.  At the stroke of midnight, I am kissed by numerous sweethearts.  And, with our paper cups filled with sparkling cider, we toast each other, sing loudly “Old Ensign” and bang our pots and pans.

Yes… New Year’s traditions die hard.  I can’t imagine not banging pots and pans at the stroke of midnight with the ones I love most…. my family.   You can’t get any more romantic than that!  (I think I grew up.)  This New Years Eve tradition is one I plan to keep around for a long time…. do or die.

Happy New Year To You All!

Til Later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  We don’t give up celebrating the New Year easily.  We’re getting together on New Years Day… another New Years Tradition.   My delicious, scrumptious, mouth watering homemade spaghetti is on the menu.  You’re all welcome to drop by.

Teaching Creativity

Teaching creativity is a hoax…. can’t be done.  “Ya either got it your ya don’t.”  And… you know what… “ya got it.”

Of course, it depends upon what definition you want to give the word.  If you lock “creativity” in a box with the labels such as “Music,” “Art,” “Writing” and “Dance” most people will fail the creative ability test immediately. Creativity or creative thinking is far more than the expression of music, art, writing and dance. For instance, creative minds have developed the technology that we all enjoy today…. it’s just in an arena in which I’m not gifted.

I’m amazed when I hear parents or teachers claim they are teaching creativity, (which expression I over-heard only yesterday.) I wanted to say, “Get out of the way and just watch… kids are innately creative…. with out intervention…. no teaching necessary.”

If kids get to the ripe old age of 5 and are afraid to freely express themselves… it’s because someone stood in their way…. or had an agenda.

Perhaps “nurturing creativity” is far better expression for parents and teachers than “teaching creativity.”  I’m pretty sure this is what the concerned mom had in mind…. I may have just got caught up in the vocabulary.


For Christmas, five of my grand daughters received colored pencils, markers and a ton of other supplies. They love to get together and make cards for each other and for their folks.  There is no need for me to spend time “teaching creativity.” The creative opportunity just needs to be provided, nurtured and their creative natures will take it from there.

Some time ago, I ran across a wonderful video and would like to share it with you.  It will take you a little time but it’s well well worth it.  Sir Ken Robinson will entertain you as well as leave you with a visionary look at nurturing creativity.

Till Later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  I have an art studio that has not been used much since I moved across the hall to the computer room.  I’m getting it organized and putting up a table and chairs for my grands, so when they come to visit  they can use all of my supplies and create to their hearts desire.  “No Teaching Creativity” necessary.

Sock Monkeys – Americana Folk Art

Sock Monkeys became a hit during the depression when mothers began making monkeys out of old Rockford Red Heel Socks.  John Nelson, a Swedish immigrant, patented a sock-knitting machine.  The work socks were manufactured for farmers and factory workers in Rockford Ill., in 1890.


The 100 year old sock monkey is making a comeback.  You are beginning to see the icon on coats (Kids Gap) p.j.’s (target) and fabric.  When times get tough, we begin to see the comforts of the past show up in our everyday living.

Even though sock monkeys are being mass produced, there is nothing like a hand made sock monkey from the old Rockford Red Heel Socks.  Every sock monkey becomes a unique piece of Americana folk art because each monkey takes on it’s own individual personality.

My sis, Sheila, has made a sock monkey for each one of her grandchildren.  She purchased a bunch of socks and shared her stash with me this year.  I made two monkeys for my youngest grands… Beck and Rosemary.  I was lucky enough to find a pre-made monkey at a retail store, purchased it, and dressed it for Abram.


It’s been awhile since I’ve had my sewing equipment out…and it was a little like learning to sew all over again.  But, even though it was a bit of a challenge, it was fun.


I actually think the kids parents and I got a bigger kick out of the sock monkeys than the kids did… as evidenced by this photo.  (At 7:00 p.m. on Christmas day.. I think they had hit the wall.)   But… as the years go by, I’m sure they will appreciate them more… if not… I know of a few other grands that are itching to get their hands on them.


On the other hand, Sheila’s grand daughter, Savannah is in the right spirit of the day….happy with her Sock Monkey.

There is nothing like a homemade gift… don’t you agree?   I love Americana crafts!

Till Later

Insightful Nana

P.S.  Here is a site where you can purchase the Sock Monkey socks and instructions for making a sock monkey doll.

Best New Years Party – New Years Party Food

Of course, the best new years party includes food and lots of it.  And, with all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday you’re probably not interested in cooking. Yet, you want to serve or take to your New Year parties food that is easy to prepare, scrumptious and looks great.

Well, I have the perfect New Year party recipe for you.  It’s easy, scrumptious and looks wonderful sitting among the other new year fare on the buffet table. This recipe was share with me by my friend, Dana, who puts together and hosts convention parties for large companies.

I’ve served this appetizer three times this holiday season, and it’s been a success every time. It will be a winner for you when it comes to New Years party food.


The ingredients are simple.  1.  one package of Cream Cheese

2.  Chili Sauce. I used my own Chili Sauce I bottled earlier this year.  Now if you don’t bottle Chili Sauce don’t despair.  There is a delicious brand called “Homemade Chili Sauce.”  Yep, that’s the name of it and the label on the jar is small.  It’s 12 oz. of great Chili Sauce.  You can find it on your grocers shelf in a round looking bottle.

3.  1/2 tsp. of Creamy Horseradish,  or add more depending upon your taste.

4.  2 cups of small, Ready To Eat Shrimp.  I picked up a large size bag of small frozen shrimp.  I have to admit… I used a few more shrimp than the recipe called for… because I love shrimp.

5.  Crackers of your choice.


Put the shrimp into a colander and allow it to thaw and drain well.  (After the shrimp has thawed… I’ve patted them dry with a paper towel to eliminate any extra moisture.


Place the Cream Cheese in the middle of a plate.


Put 2 cups of Chili Sauce or 1 bottle of “Home Made Chili Sauce into a bowl.  Mix 1/2 tsp. of Horseradish into the Chili Sauce.  (More if you like.)


Pour the Chili Sauce and Horseradish mixture over the Cream Cheese.


Dump the shrimp on top of the Cream Cheese and  Chili Sauce.  Place a small spoon or knife at the side of the plate for convenient scooping.    Serve the with crackers of your choice.

There you go… one easy, bright, delicious New Years Party food.

Hope you have the best new years party ever.

Till Later.

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  If you have any fantastic New Years Party Ideas, please share… I’d love to hear from you.

The Day After Christmas

“What?  This is the day after Christmas?”  I live by our local Mall and drive by it every time I leave my house.  On Saturday,  I had reason to drag my tired self up from the computer, dress, and drive by the mall.  It was as busy as it was the night before Christmas.

“No way will I be caught dead at the Mall today!” I confidently said to myself.   “Oh yeah,” said the Universe.  “We’ll see.”

When I arrived back home, after my short errand, my grand daughter, McKenzie, said, “Will you take Katlyn and me over to the mall?  It’s too cold to walk and we want to see what’s on sale.”

“What?”  I’m not going over there!”  Sad faces, droopy lips….. So I dragged my tired self over to the Mall, drove around and around in the parking lot for 15 minutes waiting for a parking spot… and went into the Mall to see a “darling coat that was sure to be on sale.”

What is my point to all this?   Every time I say, “No Way,” life seems to present the opportunity to challenge my out cry.  I’ve got to either learn to be stronger in my resolve or keep my mouth shut.  The later seems to be the wisest choice for me.

I’m still tired.  I’ve hit the wall.

Till later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  Have you ever said you dislike a particular name and have it crop up in your family line some place.  I did that as a child and ended up with it attached to me permanently.

Get Back To Basics – Needle Crafts

“Get Back To Basics,” is the feeling that seems to permeates society when the economy goes South and life feels a little tough.  Believe it or not… hard times are when the craft and needlework industries flourish, especially needle crafts.  I designed for the craft industry for over 25 years and witnessed the ebb and tide of crafting during affluent and hard times.

Learning to crochet and knit is on the rise.  The popularity of needle crafts is evident by the number of crochet and knitted items on the market for moms, teens, children and babies. The catalogs and stores are full of handmade looking accessories this winter season.  Or, at least they were.

Actually many stores sold out of handmade hats, headbands and scarfs very early… and holiday shoppers, (including myself ) were scouring every store and boutique for hand crochet and knitted items.


Fortunately, a local store received a late shipment of crochet head bands and I was among the throng of women grabbing them up.  You can see by this photo of the “Hat Girls” that I was successful in my find.  They were all so please when they opened this Christmas gift.

In fact, my oldest grand daughter, McKenzie, and I were at the store bright and early the day after Christmas to see if there were any hatbands left to be purchased.  We hit the jack pot again with a selection of new colors.  She is thrilled.

I learned to crochet and knit at the early age of eleven… It was a wonderful past time and I developed a love for crafting and making things with my hands.  It was not only an  enjoyable experience, but producing a actual product was very rewarding.

I can see why needle crafts are popular again.  It takes one back to a “safe solid place.”  It feels like “home.”  Yes, getting back to basics is good.

Till Later

Insightful Nana

P.S. I encourage you to learn how to crochet or knit.  McKenzie’s interest is peeked and so I’m going to teach her to crochet.  “Back to Basic Skills” in cooking, sewing,  and needle crafts such as crocheting, and knitting is a good thing.  It’s part of survival preparation for the future… come what may.

Dickens Christmas Carol – Christmas Future

Scrooge reminds us that we can made a difference in the future of all our Christmases.   What will your Christmas Future look like?


Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this. I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”


Scrooge was better than his word.  He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.  He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.  Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms.  His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

What more could I ever add?  Thanks Dickens for your inspiration!

Have a Merry Christmas and may all your future Christmases be bright.

Till, Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

Twas The Night Before Christmas – 5 Night Before Christmas Activities

Twas The Night Before Christmas and all thru our house, we were thinking of fun things to do.

5 Night Before Christmas Activities.

1. Open one gift. As children, my sisters and I would gather around the Christmas tree and wait for Mom to hand us the one gift we could open before Christmas. Of course, we all knew what it was… it was no secret. Wrapped in white tissue paper, were pajamas our Grandma Ella had made. They were made from flannel and were so cozy. We loved them. It was our tradition to enter the living room Christmas morning with our new pajamas on. What memories.

2. Go through neighborhoods and view the lights. When I was a child, lights were not prominent on every house. We had one abundant area in town and several families decorated the outside of their homes with a strand of lights. We called it “Snob Hill. It was a treat to go for a ride to “see the lights.” Afterward, we often would stop for a bit of ice cream on the way home.

3. Bake cookies and place them on someone’s door step, ring the door bell and run. One Christmas, when I was eight, we had cookies delivered to our door step on Christmas Eve. We were so surprised! They were sugar cookies decorated with frosting and colored sugar crystals. I knew who ever baked the cookies had to be rich because they could afford to put colored sugar on top of the frosting.

4. Go Christmas Caroling. It was so exciting to run to the door when your heard voices singing Silent Night, or some other traditional Christmas Carol. I usually went with friends to carol at the neighbor’s door step because it was not a practice that my family participated in. It seems like it’s a tradition that has lost its way the last few years. I wish the practice would return.

5. Gather the family around and read about the birth of Christ in the bible or watch a movie about the Nativity. After all… isn’t this what Christmas is all about? I want to share with you the following short video of the Nativity. It’s so well done… you won’t want to miss it. I have a copy and we watch it every Christmas Eve.

Till Later,

Insightful Nana

P.S. Have a lovely Night Before Christmas.

My Christmas Gift To You

My Christmas gift to you are Vintage bookplates that you can download and glue in your kids books or your own books for that matter.


Reading is a wonderful past time and my love of reading came from my Mom, who always took the time to sit down and read me a story.
Of course, we started with picture books.  However, I was very young when she started reading “the classics.”  I was about 5 years old when she read novels  like Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol to me.   A weekly trip to the library was common.

By the time I was a Junior in High School, I had read, Gone With The Wind (at least 5 times… it was a favorite,) Les Miserables, Tom Sawyer, Jane Eyre and many other adult classics.

Some of my other favorite books, just to name a few,  are Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, John Adams, Cold Mountain and the Mitford series.  I could go on and on… but the point is… besides books, my mom passed on a life time gift… the love of reading.   Thanks Mom.


I have a “Grandma Library” at my house.  It consists of many wonderful books ranging from pictures to old children’s classics.  They are books that my grandchildren and I read together.  One of their favorite books is To Market To Market by Anne Miranda and Janet Stevens.  When I say, “What do you want to read?” it seems to be on top of the stack.

So…. with Christmas gift giving in mind, give your kids and grand kids books and pass on a life time gift… the love of reading.   Here is a page of Vintage bookplates your can download and glue them into your kids books or your own books.   My gift to you.

Your Vintage Bookplates

Have a good day… and Merry Christmas To You.

Till later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  My mom pasted on the love of reading to my sisters also.  My sis, Sheila, would hide in the closet with a flashlight and read all night…. and sleep all day in school.  Now… that’s a love of reading.

Considering Christmas Gift Cards?

Did you know that over 50% of gift cards are purchase five days before Christmas?  Perhaps folks can’t think of an appropriate gift to give that would please the recipient.  Or, maybe they just remembered someone to whom they want to give too.  I fall into both categories… so I’m running out today and picking up a few Christmas gift cards.


Here are 5 tips you need to consider when purchasing a gift card.

1.  When you purchase a gift card, check on the expiration date.  Small independent stores are famous for putting a date limitation on the card.  Chain stores usually honor an expired card… but it would be wise to check anyway.  Try and find cards that don’t have an expiration date.

2.  If the recipient of the card doesn’t spend the full value of the card for one purchase, make sure the remaining money on the card can be spent at a later date.  Usually gift cards that can be swiped through a machine will account for the balance… but again, it’s wise to check.

3.  Are you aware that more than $1 in $4 that is spent on gifts cards is not redeemed.  Many cards get tucked in a drawer to be used at a later date… then they are forgotten about. (I’m guilty of this one.)  Stores make thousands of dollars on gift cards that are not redeemed.   In fact… they count on it.

4.  Instead of giving the recipient a gift card, consider cash.  Perhaps the person is saving for something special.  You could put the cash into a Christmas card and mention the desired item they are saving for.

5.  If you are purchasing a gift card from a chain store, make sure all stores will honor the card.  Sometimes small chain stores are independently owned and will not honor cards purchase from other stores in the chain.

Hope this helps… off I go to purchase gift cards.

Till Later
Insight Nana

P.S.  You can increase the perceived value of the card by wrapping it in a large box.