Friday, January 31, 2014

A lovely Christmas poem

From my personal collection of vintage Christmas cards
As you know if you've been visiting my Christmas kitchen any length of time,  I enjoy re-reading older issues of December magazines.  I have quite a large stash of them (2 shelves in a tall bookcase) and I do refer back to many of them -- not every year, but every few years.  Country Woman magazines are some that I like to look through every year.  They are filled with inspiration for crafts, decorating, recipes, and are just fun and interesting to read.  On the back cover, there's often a poem by a reader.  I love a good Christmas poem!

On the back of the November/December 2004 Country Woman, there's a simply lovely poem which I would like to share with you.  The poet is Sharron Grotegut.  Here it is:

The Warmth of December

The fragrance of fir boughs,
     hot chocolate and spice,
Smiles exchanged as we skate on the ice,
The laughter of children on a 
     blustery day,
Sleigh bells jingling a tune on our way,
A frosty cloud on the breath,
     a woolen-warm hand,
Early darkness blanketing the land.

Flickering candles and
     sweet clusters of holly,
The wide-open arms of a snowman 
     who's jolly,
A chorus of angels to God up above,
Songs of the season that amplify love;
Christmas lights strung,
     drifted over with snow,
Contours of satin reflecting the glow.

Presents lovingly packaged and sealed,
A trickling tear when the gift is revealed;
Turkey, plum pudding,
     a peppermint cane,
Garlands of memories,
     frost etched on the pane.
A month that crackles at fireside's ember,
Things in the heart bring the
     warmth of December.
~ Sharron Grotegut, Moncton, New Brunswick

Isn't that simply beautiful?  I love how she touches on each and every aspect of the season.  One of my favorite phrases is "Christmas lights strung, drifted over with snow", because I love how colored lights look with snow on them.

a little lighted fir tree by our garage
Hope you all enjoy this poem as much as I did.  I thought it was too lovely not to share.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

White Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprints

Photo by Taste of Home
 Can you stand one more cookie recipe?  These would be nice for Valentine's Day too, with their pretty dab of raspberry jam on top: White Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprints.

 The one problem I noted when I made this recipe before was that the jam never did firm up enough to stack the cookies in a tin for storage, even with waxed paper between the layers.  That could be solved by either serving them right away, or storing in more than one flat tin that would accommodate a layer of cookies without stacking.  In any case, these cookies are so pretty and so delicious that I can overlook a minor inconvenience like this!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies

Photo from Taste of Home -- it doesn't do these fabulous cookies justice!
I recently realized that I hadn't posted about this cookie recipe I tried a few years ago:Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies.  It was in the December 2008 (if I remember right) Country Woman magazine, the top winner in a Christmas cookie contest. 

When I actually tried the recipe, I realized that it was very similar to a praline cookie I've often made ... not as a Christmas cookie, just a special cookie for teas, luncheons and so on.  The cookies are delicious as they are, but the caramel icing makes them so special!

Now this recipe, with the chocolate drizzle atop the caramel icing, is even more special and does indeed make a lovely Christmas cookie.  I hope you will try them!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Browned-Butter Spritz Sandwich Cookies

Photo by Taste of Home
Here's another recipe I recently came across in a back December issue of Country Woman magazine.  These sound so good.  I think of browned butter as being a very old-fashioned, 1950s type of flavor.  I remember my mother making a browned-butter frosting for cupcakes occasionally.  These sandwich cookies look fancy and they have a yummy-sounding maple filling. 

Here's the link: Browned-Butter Sandwich Spritz.  If I finish all of my handcrafted Christmas gifts by December 1 (as Mr. T has decreed must be the case), I should have time to try some new cookie recipes!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Treats

Photo by Taste of Home
Call me strange, if you will, but I'm still browsing through older issues of December magazines.  Recently I came upon two great-looking cookie recipes in a back issue of Country Woman magazine.  Rather than count on my memory to keep track of where I saw them, I'll jot the page numbers and issue date down in my "recipes to try" section in my Christmas notebook.

But even better, I will post the link and picture here so others can give these a try too.  Today I'm sharing Triple Chocolate Peppermint Treats.  One of the reviewers said that she was making them for Valentine's Day, too.  Not a bad idea!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One more verse from the Christmas card banners

A page from one of my vintage Christmas carol booklets
Back before Christmas, I wrote about how my granddaughter and I made fun banners from some old Christmas cards.  It was especially neat that some of them were made with the messages and greetings from inside the cards, not just pictures from the fronts.  I've shared a few of these messages already, and here is one more -- the last one I'll share.

"We were not there to hear or see,
But our hopes and dreams of eternity
Are centered around that holy story
When God sent us His Son in glory.
And no event ever left behind
A transformation of this kind ...
So question and search
and doubt, if you will,
But the story of Christmas is living still."
~ Helen Steiner Rice

I recently heard of an elementary school teacher in our area who was trying to explain the true meaning of Christmas to her students.  It seems that only one or two of the children had any idea that Christmas had anything at all to do with a Baby in a manger.  Still, as the poem says, the Christmas story is ever-living.  Are we sharing it?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake ~ another nice Christmas dinner side dish

Photo from Taste of Home
This is one of the side dishes we had with Christmas dinner this year, and was it ever a hit!  Here's the link:   Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake

I will be making this again; we liked it a lot, and our Christmas dinner guests raved about it.  We did change things a bit.  We doubled the recipe to be sure we had enough.  I did cut down on the brown sugar by not doubling that.  Also, to cut down on the sweetness a little more, for the double recipe we used one-half cup of the dried cranberries and one-half cup of fresh frozen unsweetened cranberries, which we cooked along with the apples, brown sugar and spices during that step of the recipe.  We will definitely be making this again for holiday meals.  Highly recommended!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fudge Bonbon Cookies

... for next year's cookie trays!  Or maybe I will make some for Valentine's Day!
Photo from Taste of Home
While browsing through December back issues of Country Woman magazine, I came upon this recipe for Fudge Bonbon Cookies.  (Does anyone else do this -- browse through December back issues of favorite magazines?  If you don't, you should.  I haven't personally bought a Christmas issue of a magazine in quite some time (though I've occasionally been gifted with some), but I have stacks of December back issues of Woman's Day, Family Circle, and of course, Country Woman, Taste of Home, etc.  Many of them have much nicer recipes and craft and decor ideas than what the newer magazines have, plus far fewer ads.)

Anyway, when I came upon this recipe I remembered baking these cookies years ago from Cook & Tell, a fabulous cooking newsletter that has sadly ceased publication.  The cookies are the molded type, made from an easy dough that incorporates sweetened condensed milk and melted chocolate chips.  You mold the cookie dough into balls around an unwrapped Hershey's kiss.  One of the reviewers on the Taste of Home site said that she often molded the cookie dough around miniature peanut butter cups or -- her family's favorite -- miniature Mounds bars. 

I'm going to be trying this!  Maybe you'd like to add a recipe to your 2014 baking list, too!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

For Mrs. Smith ... Liebster Award Fun

Postcard from my collection
My good friend Mrs. Smith, over at Sweet Tea and Simplicity, nominated me for the Liebster Award back in December.  Nominees are supposed to share eleven interesting facts about themselves, answer eleven questions posed by the blogger who nominated them, and then nominate eleven bloggers of their choice.  Mrs, Smith offered to absolve me from the requirements, knowing how busy I was right then.  I'm opting out of the eleven nominations part; I just don't have time to think about that right now.  But I thought I might be able to manage the other two parts, and chose to post this here on my Christmas blog, since some of the questions have a Christmasy flavor to them.  So here goes:

Eleven interesting facts about me:
I find it hard to think of even one!  But I'll try.
1.  I was born with a very unusual birthmark -- a dimple, right in the middle of my collarbone area.  I've never seen anyone else with a mark like this.  I always found it so amusing that in my baby book, my mother had drawn this little ink circle  on the sketch where one marks anything unusual about the baby.
2.  I learned to use scissors at a very young age, but for some mysterious reason (call it a lack of coordination -- I do!), I couldn't use them in the normal way with finger and thumb in the handles.  Somehow I controlled the blades by holding the handles in my hands and working the blades that way.  I'm not sure, but I seem to remember quite a battle teaching me to use them in the correct way before starting school.  Previous to that, my unique method of using scissors had been a parlor trick of sorts.  Suddenly it was something to be overcome. 
3.  I taught myself to read at the age of four by way of the comics in the newspaper.  Having learned my ABCs previously, I would spell out words and ask adults what they were, then apparently filed the information away for next time.  Not learning to read phonetically meant I got quite a few pronunciations wrong, but in time that got corrected.  Since I could read well by the time I started school at six, my teacher let me skip reading group and sent me to the library.
4.  When I was a young child, we didn't have television so we listened to the radio a lot.  I used to lie on the floor listening to a large radio we had (which was also on the floor).  I could see a little light inside the radio and firmly believed that there were little people inside, recording a broadcast in a little lighted studio.
5. As a youngster of 8 or 9, one of my favorite places to play was my grandmother's barn.  I would go in on a summer day when all of the cows were outside and play "hotel".  I pretended that the stalls were rooms and I would sweep each on out and add a bouquet of flowers to each water receptacle.  Not sure what the cows thought about that later...
6.  As a young teen, I had a little home bakery business in the summers.  It was my mother's idea, but it was a good one and I sold lots of pies, cakes, coffeecakes, brownies and so on to the "summer people" who had seasonal homes on nearby lakes.
7.  One job I had in my twenties was as a part-time cook at a country inn.  We weren't allowed to copy the recipes, but I memorized them and wrote them down when I got home.  They were some of my best recipes for years!
8.  One of my favorite things to do as a young girl was to make paper dolls.  I had a Betsy McCall fashion designer set with a light box and oodles of options for all kinds of outfits.  I would trace and color them and make wonderful clothes for the dolls.  I also liked regular paper dolls and would make outfits for them by tracing onto magazine pages to get the various colors.  I could do this sort of thing by the hour.
9.  I love nearly any kind of needlework now, but unlike what you might assume, I didn't learn it at my mother's knee.  I was in my twenties when I first tackled needlepoint, embroidery, and crocheting.  In fact, it was my hubby who taught me to crochet.
10.  I have written a novel for teens and a whole bunch of children's devotional books.
11.  I have a mole on my right wrist and for many years (and still, occasionally) I had to glance at my wrist to differentiate between right and left.

And now to answer the eleven questions posed by Mrs. Smith:

1.  Do you live where it is common to have winter snow and do you like snow?  Oh, yes, we do live where it is common to have snow in winter.  We usually get several feet of snow or more between the months of November and March.  Sometimes we may see snow in October, and it may last until April.  I like snow in many ways, especially while it is falling and looks so beautiful.  I like how the fresh snowfall blankets the landscape, so symbolic of how God's cleansing power washes us as white as snow.  I also like snow for its insulating qualities, keeping houses somewhat warmer and muffling sound outdoors.  But I don't like snow when it gets all dirty and ugly, and I hate driving in snow or on snow-covered roads.
2.  Do you decorate your Christmas tree with a theme, or do you decorate it with an eclectic collection of sentimental decorations?  Eclectic, for sure!  We have everything from childhood ornaments made by the kids to glass and plastic vintage items from the 1940s, to handcrafted ornaments I've made myself or received from friends, to more elegant glass ornaments found at after-Christmas sales.  At this point not all of our items will fit on the tree, so I'm going to be doing some serious winnowing of our ornaments when we take the tree down.  Some years I have put up a small tree in our bedroom which I have called the Victorian tree, and that one does have a Victorian/romantic type theme.
3.  What are some fun things that you plan to do this Christmas Season?  Well, of course we have done them now for this year.  We took 3 of our grandkids on a fun outing to a Christmas shop with an ice cream buffet (after lunch at McDonalds) and also to a dollar store to find gifts for their parents.  We had so much fun!  Another fun thing we did was to go to a Christmas parade in our town, and to a performance of a musical version of A Christmas carol by a Christian high school. 
4.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Probably right here in New England because we just like it here.  We've traveled in the South and West quite a bit, as well as several Canadian provinces, but we really do like it here.  We've talked about moving out west someday, and we also like the idea of living in the Great North Woods area of our own state.  (But the snow stays for way too long up there!) Another thought we've had is to move somewhere in say, the mountains of North Carolina so we can still have seasons, but where the winters aren't quite as severe as here.
5.  What was a favorite childhood toy that you had?  How did you acquire it and do you still have it?   Probably one of my favorites was the Barbie Dream House.  It was one of the early models, assembled from heavy corrugated cardboard.  The furniture was assembled the same way.  It was a very "modern" looking home, but I loved it and added all sorts of other things to it over time.  I got it for Christmas one year.  And I think it's still in the attic somewhere.
6.  Do you like to watch old movies, and if you do, what are some that you especially like? I enjoy watching them at times.  Although these aren't super old, I love the Anne of Green Gables movies -- everything about them, the music, costumes, scenery, the wonderful acting, and just the great story that they tell.
7.  If you could live in any time period, when would that be and why? I would say the 1950s -- well, I did live the first ten years of my life in that era.  I would choose that time because life was simpler in many ways, and I think people in general were a lot happier than they are now.  A lot wiser, too, and more responsible and capable.  And in that era, modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and efficient appliances were the norm, unlike earlier times when everyday life was much harder.
9.  Would you describe your decorating style as being  fun & cutesy, charming & rustic, elegant & ornate, or classic and sophisticated?  It's probably more eclectic, like my Christmas tree!  But if I had to choose one of these descriptions, I would say charming and rustic.
10.  Green acres is the place for me; how about you – if you had your druthers, would you prefer city or rural living?   Rural living, for sure.  Cities are just not my cup of tea.
11.  If you could open up a door and climb inside the world of a fiction book, what book would it be and why?  That is a tough question!  Probably one of the Anne books -- maybe Anne of Windy Poplars or Anne of Ingleside.

So, there you have it, for what  it's worth!  To read Mrs. Smith's original post about this -- which is fun and interesting -- go here:Liebster Award Fun!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Just 2 weeks ago ...

It's hard to believe that Christmas Eve day was only two weeks ago.  I took some pictures around that time of various Christmas preparations around my house, but never found time to post them.  This is a  Christmas blog -- so it's never too late or early to post Christmas pictures here!  I'm  just going to keep it simple by posting the pictures with captions.
A Christmas cookie tray (all cookies made by my wonderful husband) all ready to wrap for the neighbors.  I got the cute star-shaped cookie plates on an after Christmas clearance on year.  They have a snowman design.

The kitchen island laden with homemade hot chocolate mix, cookie and candy canisters, and cinnamon pretzels -- just some of our output of kitchen gifts.

The center shelf of the hutch reveals it's the day before Christmas.  I love the little glittery houses and the sweet wintry animal figurines.

More of the hutch decor.  How I love decorating for this beautiful season!

Sorry the photo is tilted; I was taking these in a terrible hurry.  The little bears are from my daughters' childhood and the little teapot and cup (inside the dome) are gifts from a blog friend.  The dome is an after-Christmas buy  at Marshalls, the plates from a similar sale at Wal*Mart, and the cardinal teapot from a similar sale at Yankee Candle, all some years ago.  The red snowman mug is a thrift-store find.

The Christmas hutch in its entirety, with my vintage shadow box (made from an old wooden silverware tray) on top.  You can see into the living room and a glimpse of the lighted tree.

Christmas tree and reflection

Tins full of goodies in cold storage on the front porch

Two finished owl hot packs waiting to be wrapped for granddaughters
And a basket of cones and greenery on the front porch
Hope you enjoyed this look at our simple pre-Christmas home!

Friday, January 03, 2014

Quote for the day

This is the inside illustration from one of the cards in my collection of small vintage Christmas cards.
When my granddaughter and I made our simple Christmas card banner , some of the pennants were from the insides of Christmas cards.  We chose them according to how well they would fit our template, of course, but we also chose them according to the message they shared.  We tried to pick ones that were meaningful to us.

It's bitterly cold here in northern New England today.  After a big snowstorm, the sun is shining (albeit rather weakly) but it's C-O-L-D!  So it's no wonder that this particular card's message jumped out at me and begged to be shared:

"Let us have a little warmth
in the midst of winter ...
Let us have a little peace
amid the rush of daily life ...
Let us have a little comfort,
a  little beauty, a little wonder ...
Let us celebrate Christmas."
~ Ellen Brenneman

Isn't that beautiful?  I love it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

The skaters are an image from the inside of one of my small vintage Christmas cards.
 Mr. T and I would like to wish each of you the happiest of New Years.  2014 stretches before us, full of possibilities.  There will be blessings; there will surely be heartaches and challenges, as well.  May each of us purpose in our hearts to grow increasingly closer to our Lord this year, and to benefit from all that He allows to enter our lives.

As one of my vintage greeting cards reads,
God bless thy year!
Thy coming in, thy going out,
Thy rest, 
Thy traveling about,
The rough, the smooth,
The bright, the drear,
God bless thy year!
~ Old English blessing

Indeed, may God richly bless your year as you look to Him!