Monday, July 16, 2018

Fan mail for my mother's famous maple fudge

Photo from Maple Syrup World
Yes, there is more to the story.  I've told you all about my mother's maple fudge and how she was locally famous for the preparation of this delicacy. 
She gave this fudge frequently as a gift-- to everyone from doctors to piano teachers -- and people greatly appreciated its creaminess (it contains 2 cups of cream!) and true maple flavor achieved by using a dark grade of maple syrup.   This very rich fudge was always cut in very small pieces --perhaps an inch square.  We kids were often treated to corner pieces and trimmings -- and, truthfully, that was fine with me.  This is a delicious fudge but it is very sweet.  I have always preferred chocolate fudge to maple.

(Incidentally, since I have no photos of the maple fudge, I went looking on line.  The photo and link at the top of the page will take you to a maple fudge recipe that does not contain white sugar -- only pure maple syrup, butter, cream, and nuts which are optional.  Might be worth a try!  I chose this particular photo because it resembled my mother's fudge more closely than others I found.)

As I've been cleaning out at my parents' home, I have been finding so many notes of appreciation from folks she made this candy for.  Here's one of them:

Notice that Winifred says, "Seems as if the candy was the best you ever made.  I follow your directions but mine is never as creamy as yours.  Mine is amateur and yours professional." What an accolade!

Winifred was an elderly lady who lived at a bit of a distance.  My mother apparently at some point even made some fudge specifically for this lady to give away.  I imagine all that stirring would have been a bit much for an older lady to tackle.  Winifred wrote in another note, "What a wonderful thing for you to make all that candy for me.  A real life saver.  I never expected anything like that." 

Then Winifred writes more about one of her own experiences with making the fudge:
"Mine tastes good but isn't creamy and fine grain like yours.  To begin with I hunted half a day for your recipe, then I measured the whole amount in the pressure cooker.  [My mother always used the very heavy pressure-cooker saucepan to make her fudge in, but she did not cook it under pressure!]  I have never had good luck only when I made half the amount.  The phone rang twice and I had to turn off the stove.  It boiled over once, and besides I got too tired."  Poor Winifred!  This is why I never have tried making that fudge.

Believe it or not, there is yet more fan mail for my mother's maple fudge -- but I will share that with you all another day.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Vintage crafting bits and pieces

In my sorting and sifting at my childhood home, I am coming across a few vintage crafting bits and pieces.  This jar of glitter in the Sprinkle Sparkle brand was one of my first finds.  Vintage glitter!  (And isn't that Sprinkle Sparkle label so much fun!?)

Then I have found some other nifty things, like stickers and seals.
One day I found a gorgeous vintage Christmas gift box ⇓ that contained just 2 items;
This title was on one side of the box.  Guess what originally came in this stunning box?  Men's socks!
The box contained the stickers shown below...
I actually remember using stickers like these.  I loved them and wanted to use them much more liberally than I should have.  These are the type of stickers one had to lick.

... and the above sketch, done on a used envelope.  Opening this box was like opening a time capsule.

What do you suppose the sketch was for?  I can tell you, because I happen to know.  The time capsule took me back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, and my mother's preparations for the Methodist Church Christmas Fair.  I described the project in the post I wrote about this fair: "The base for each pin was a smooth oval of wood.  This was long before the days when such wooden shapes could be purchased pre-cut; my parents, as I recall, cut out the shapes themselves and then sanded them smoothly.  Then tiny hemlock cones, yellow tansy heads, and red-orange bittersweet berries were artfully arranged on the wooden base."

This pin, though not perfectly preserved, survived the years.  I guess some of the tansy heads must have been painted green.
 The time-capsule effect happened many times, but another box, just an ordinary box this time, went back to the very same era as this one.

I wrote about this in the same church fair post: "Another year my mother made small coin purses for kids out of felt.  The purses buttoned closed.  They resembled kittens, and I think there may have been bunnies or puppies as well."

Back in the day when I was in elementary school,  children often carried coin purses in a pocket.  Lunch money and milk money both involved coins, so the coin purse kept them safe.

I am not sure that any of the purses made by my mother at this time still exist, but I did find the magazine where she got the idea and the patterns -- the very first McCall's Christmas Make-It Book, purchased for $1 in 1958.   And as you can see in the box of bits and pieces, there were many more designs than puppies and kittens.  There were birds, and clowns, and snow boots, and who knows what all else.  I scanned a couple of the pages to show you:

The pages in this section were pink, but I chose to scan them in black and white so they would be a bit easier to see and read.

Oh, the memories brought back by these vintage crafting bits and pieces!  Hope they've triggered some delightful memories for you as well.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vintage Style Glitter Star Ornament

Photo from Serendipity Refined
Now here is an ornament I simply have to try making.  Isn't it beautiful?

You'll find the tutorial here: Vintage Style Glitter Star Ornament.  It's a design by the very talented Kimberly at Serendipity Refined.

Other than the drill for drilling a hole at the top of the ornament, this takes very simple materials, the sorts of things almost any crafter might have on hand.

Does this inspire you as it does me?  Simply gorgeous!๐ŸŒŸ

Friday, July 13, 2018

Poem: The Angels' Song

In an old Ideals Christmas magazine, I came upon this lovely poem:

The Angels' Song

Listen close some winter's night
and hear the angels' song, 
echoing round the moonlit plains
and valleys still and long;

Listen, like the sky is full
of silence and silver stars,
like hillsides lie in sequined snow
and ice from near and far;

Listen, like the quiet creeps
along the panes and eaves,
like frost upon the shoreline grass,
like wind among the trees;

Like shepherds watching o'er their flocks
beside the firelight's glow,
and hear the strains of angels' songs 
no matter where you go.

Deborah A. Bennett

I love the pictures that these words bring to my mind!  Hope others enjoy them, also.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My Mother's Macaroni & Cheese

When I was a child, our family's traditional meal for Christmas Eve was macaroni and cheese.  My mother made hers with a rich cheese sauce, loaded with sharp or maybe extra-sharp cheddar.  She always topped her macaroni and cheese with crushed saltines sauteed briefly in butter (a much-coveted treat for us children) and then topped the whole with paprika before heating it through until bubbly in the oven.  It was delicious.  We often had grilled hot dogs alongside the macaroni and cheese and usually a green salad of some sort.

My mother always made an extra casserole dish full of macaroni and cheese, and took it to a neighbor couple we dearly loved, for their Christmas Eve supper.  On New Year's Day, Mrs. F always made a gelatin dessert called pumpkin snow, and sent it back to us in the clean casserole dish, along with a jar of custard sauce to serve with the dessert.  It was a sweet tradition between neighbors.

I recently located my mother's macaroni & cheese recipe, which I had copied down many years ago.  I suspect it probably started with a Betty Crocker recipe and she tweaked it from there.  In case anyone else thinks macaroni & cheese sounds like a good Christmas Eve supper -- or if you'd just like to try a good recipe -- here it is:


2 cups elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided use
3/8 teaspoon pepper, divided use
2 cups milk
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided use
2 tsp. instant minced onion
1/2 tube of saltine crackers, crumbled
1/4 cup butter

Cook the macaroni as the package directs.

Melt butter in double boiler over hot water [I just use a saucepan].  Blend in flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring,  until mixture is smooth and bubbly.  Remove from heat.  Stir in milk.  Return to heat; heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir in about half the cheese (1 1/2 cups).

Place half the cooked macaroni in a lightly greased 2 to 3 quart casserole.  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the minced onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle on half the remaining cheese (about 3/4 cup).  Pour half of the cheese sauce over this layer.  Repeat layers.

For topping, melt the 1/4 cup butter and crumble in the half-tube of saltines.  Cook the crumbs in the butter for a few minutes, then use to top the casserole.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 375ยบ for 35 to 40  minutes or until topping is browned and casserole is bubbly. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings, I would guess. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fun Christmas items in my Etsy shop

Today I thought I would share some of the vintage Christmas goodies in my Etsy shop, A New Hampshire Attic.  (Later this month, from July 24 through 31, I plan to have a Christmas in July sale in my shop.  I hope to add many more vintage Christmas items between now and then!)

But for now, here is a sampling of the fun Christmas items available:
Green candy box
This is a different view of the Santa candy box at the top of the post.  This shows off the little string handle.
Another candy box
A pre-owned 1940s Christmas card
An unused Christmas card (for kids) with a snowman theme
Unused card from the 1960s -- a covered bridge theme
This is such a pretty unused card!
Another unused card.  I have several with this unique snowflake design.
An unused card from the 1930s
The buttons are gone from this card, but I love its Christmasy look!

A cocktail size Santa napkin
Hope you've enjoyed this little peek at a few vintage Christmas goodies!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The rest of the story on the Almond Joy Muffins

(As if you couldn't tell, the above illustration is a screenshot of my Christmas breakfast Pinterest board.  It has loads of great ideas for that special breakfast or brunch.)

When sharing the recipe for my Almond Joy Muffins, I commented that it had been published in Simple & Delicious magazine under a slightly different name.  That was in the November/December 2006 issue.  If you happen to have it in your stash somewhere, you can find my recipe, re-titled Coconut Almond Muffins for, most likely, copyright reasons.

And if you have that issue and open it up, you will be seeing it as I saw it for the first time in print, completely surprised.  I had not realized that my recipe was about to be published -- and I first saw the magazine in Elko, Nevada, in October 2006.  We had traveled out by Amtrak to visit our newborn grandson, Darrin.

When we visit out there in the fall, my daughter often has a Christmas issue of a lovely magazine just waiting to greet me.  I'm guessing (though I don't remember clearly) that's how I happened to come into possession of this issue.  At any rate, as I leafed through it, I was astounded to see my own name in print, and my recipe, under an assumed name.  That was exciting, and my daughter enjoyed the fun surprise as well.

But there's more to the story!  Back in New Hampshire, in another part of the state, an old friend of mine with whom I had worked years ago at a Christian school was browsing through her new copy of Simple & Delicious.  The name "New Hampshire" in the address of a recipe contributor caught her eye.  She glanced further for the name of the town, thinking that it wouldn't be a town she was familiar with.  But it was!  She glanced further for the contributor's name, thinking, "It'll be someone I've never heard of.  It always is."

And it was my name!  That moved my friend, a few days later, to dig out my snail mail address and to write me a letter, telling me about the serendipitous finding of my recipe in her new magazine.  She also caught me up to date on her own life and family and encouraged me to get back in touch.  I did, though neither of us are the best correspondents and it's been a few years now since we've caught up with one another. 

Later I received my notification of the recipe being published, and a free copy of the magazine too.

That's a lot of fun from one recipe submitted to a magazine!  And the muffins are pretty tasty, too.