Shirley Blynn loves decorating her home for Christmas.
There isn't a corner of her beautiful Palmerton home that doesn't reflect that love.
Every room has a tree, from the living room's 7-foot tree decorated in gold, silver and white with hints of peach, to a seashell-decorated tree in the welcoming foyer, to a teddy bear tree in the family room, to the miniature Santa's workshop tree on her kitchen counter.
Even the bedrooms and bathrooms have Christmas trees.
Blynn enjoys showcasing her Christmas collections and admits it takes her days to decorate her home.
One day in 1986 she was in Kmart and saw its featured Christmas bear and fell in love. She has "adopted" one every year since, and that first Christmas bear has been joined by 24 brothers and sisters.
Thanks to her husband, Peter, the bears have their very own special niche on shelves he built specifically for them in the upstairs hallway.
Her love of bears grew to include a collection of Boyd's Bears and others that she takes a fancy to when she encounters them.
She owned two Steiff bears. The first one she purchased when the Blynns were visiting their son in Germany where he was working. It was a little Steiff boy bear dressed in traditional German attire. The next year her son asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she said the little Steiff bear girl in German attire.
After her son became the father of two daughters, she passed them on to her granddaughters.
A talking commemorative bear to celebrate the 100th year of the teddy bear in 2002 is one of her favorites. It's dressed to look like President Theodore Roosevelt as a Rough Rider and gives the history of the teddy bear. She also has a duplicate of the first original teddy bear that was released by the Smithsonian Institution.
A sign over one teddy bear collection states "We all need a little Tender Loving Bear," a sentiment Blynn endorses whole heartedly.
When Tropical Storm Lee brought flooding throughout parts of Pennsylvania, Blynn's heart went out to the children.
"I pitied those poor kids who lost everything," she says.
She and Peter drove to the Wyoming Fire Co. where she donated 25 of her bears and one doll.
"Children need something to cuddle up to when frightened or sad. For some reason, teddy bears are great for cuddling."
In the Blynns' foyer, a wreath hangs on a wall, decorated with historical images of Santa Claus ornaments. Blynn liked to shop at H. Leh & Co. in Allentown and for several years, the store featured a new "Memories of Santa" ornament of how he appeared from 1840-1940. Blynn made sure she visited the store each Christmas season to add to her collection, up until the store closed.
Annalee Dolls, bendable, felt-bodied dolls with painted faces, as elves, carolers and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus are seen throughout the Blynn home in charming Christmas vignettes.
Blynn is also an avid crafter.
"It's what I enjoy. My mother was a wonderful seamstress and crafter. One year for Easter she made jackets for my two brothers and my dress. Then she made me a purse out of a cardboard box and covered it with fabric and used an old belt of my father's for the strap," says Blynn.
Blynn says she and her two brothers, Richard and Fred Nothstein, "were raised in a grocery shop."
Her father was Fritz Nothstein, owner of the Regent Meat Market in Palmerton. Her mother, Kitty, passed on her love of handcrafting to her daughter and after Blynn graduated from Palmerton High School, she went on to graduate from Cedar Crest College, taught home economics at Palmerton High School and later worked as a substitute teacher at Lehighton High School.
Now retired, she and her husband love to travel and have been all over the world. When they are in Florida, she collects seashells.
"I love seashells. Each one is different and so beautiful," says Blynn.
Several years ago, she wanted a little something extra to give their three children, Peter, Peggy Shupp and Christopher, and grandchildren for Christmas, so she made seashell angel ornaments. She keeps improving their design. The family has grown to eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and this year Blynn made 18 angel seashells ornaments for them.
As a member of the Concourse Club of Palmerton, she originated the idea of giving homemade Christmas gifts to Meals On Wheels clients in Palmerton. As she was collecting seashells in Florida, she thought the seashell angel ornaments would be great to give the clients because "people need a little angel in their lives."
The Nativity scene, a prominent display, features some treasured pieces from her husband's great-grandparents. Another Nativity scene is near and dear to Blynn because her daughter Peggy, also an avid crafter, made it all out of fabric.
Blynn loves Christmas "because it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus."
She loves to decorate for the season because "I like to make people happy and when they come to visit, they get enjoyment out of it. And that makes me happy."