Thursday, January 18, 2007

The story of my Christmas hutch

Toward the end of November, we went out for a spur-of-the-moment lunch with some friends after church. As we enjoyed a casual, relaxing meal at a local seafood place, we chatted about our plans for the upcoming holidays as well as other happenings in our lives. Our friends have their home for sale and are planning to downsize to a smaller place. They mentioned that they had sold many of their things but that they still had a few larger items to get rid of. One of these items was a handmade hutch.

I have always wanted a hutch. We have a pine corner cupboard (also handmade) in our dining area, but it's packed to the gills, and I've always wished for a hutch as well. My husband has the skill and talent (but not the time) to build one, so I had pretty much resigned myself to not having one. As Elizabeth George says in A Woman After God's Own Heart, "If God doesn't provide it, you didn't need it." When our friends mentioned that they only wanted $125 for the hutch, I became cautiously optimistic. That was certainly within our price range, and my husband was interested too. The deciding factor would be its dimensions. Our dining area is fairly small, and the portion of wall space we could allocate to a piece of furniture was limited. We said we would think and pray about it and perhaps go and look at the hutch.

Later that week, my friend called with the dimensions. We measured the intended space and found it perfect. We set up a time to go look at the hutch. It was exactly what we wanted! Not too big, not ornate -- very simply made and a near-perfect match for our corner cupboard. The extra-special blessing was when my friend said, "I want you to take it before Christmas. You will have so much fun decorating it for the holidays."

And indeed I did! I'm going to go back to the post where the photo of the hutch is, and add in some text as to what's on the shelves of the hutch. I plan to use the open shelves as a showcase for seasonal decorations I've collected and change them with the seasons. But in my heart it will always be my "Christmas hutch" -- a very special Christmas gift that God provided for me in 2006!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Apricot Cake

Of all the goodies I made to give away this year, these little cakes were the one everybody mentioned. I just typed out the recipe for an aunt who requested it, and added it to my personal cookbook, so it seemed an opportune time to add it here in the Christmas kitchen. Of course this need not be reserved for Christmas; I plan to make more for Valentine gifts.

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins (either dark, golden, or a combination of both)
1 cup chopped dates
Grated rind of 1 orange

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds

A day ahead, combine the water and 1/2 c. sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, pour over apricot pieces; stir and let stand, covered, in a cool place overnight. (I put them in the fridge.)

Next day, sift dry ingredients together onto wax paper, then return them to sifter and sift again. With electric beater, cream butter and 1 c. sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each; beat in vanilla. Toss raisins, dates, orange rind and nuts with 2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture. Fold the flour, the fruits/nuts, and the apricots (lifted from their syrup with a slotted spoon) into the creamed mixture just until well distributed.

Heat oven to 350ยบ. Turn batter into a well greased and floured tube or Bundt pan, or use smaller pans. I use about 9-10 small loaf pans. Bake tube or Bundt pan about 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and beginning to pull away from sides of pan. (Obviously, bake smaller pans for a shorter time. I think my small loaves take about a half hour.)

If using large pan, let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to finish cooling. For the small pans, let them cool 5 minutes or so before turning out on rack to finish cooling.

This wonderful recipe is from Cook & Tell December 1988. (The only change I made was to increase the raisins and dates a bit and to use fresh orange rind rather than candied peel. But do what you think best -- if you prefer candied peel, then you need a total of 2 cups raisins/dates/peel. ) I love to make this in little loaf pans to include in gift baskets for friends and neighbors.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Christmas Hutch

Here's a photo of my new-to-me hutch all decorated for Christmas! This was how my hutch looked for most of the Christmas season. (If you want a closer look, you probably know that just by double-clicking on the photo you can bring up a much larger version of it.) 

On the bottom shelf is a manger scene with the wooden stable made by my dad. I am so excited to have a nice place to display this! The figures are nothing special, and I hope at some point to replace them with some a bit nicer. 

On the second shelf I have displayed 3 of my Gooseberry Patch Christmas-themed books. I don't own all of these, but I do have quite a few. (I've gotten several of them for free because a craft or recipe of mine was published in them! Fun!) Also on this shelf is a sparkly bottle-brush tree, a plastic reindeer, a cute little papier-mache snowman container, and a sprig of fir from our Christmas tree. Lying in front of the center book is a little painted metal sign reading "Joy to the World." 

 On the third shelf, on the left are 3 little glittery cardboard houses (I love these things!) and a bottle brush tree. In the middle is a cross-stitch Christmas picture I made, and to the right are 2 plastic reindeer and a plastic Santa/sleigh (1950s vintage), partially out of sight. Also out of sight is a sprig of silk holly with a vintage-y red bow. The black objects are lumps of coal with snowmen painted on them. (My hubby put those in my Christmas stocking!) 

On the top shelf are 2 cute snowpeople given me by a friend, and in the center is a lovely cross-stitch made by the same friend. It's Proverbs 31:31, and will probably stay in that place year-round. We had to take it off the wall to make room for the hutch. At each end of this shelf is a little teddy bear, one with a song book and one holding a musical note. We've had these for years and I always like to put them some place in my Christmas decorating. 

So that is this year's Christmas decor for the hutch. I had so much fun putting it all together!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Welcome to My Christmas Kitchen!

Welcome to my Christmas kitchen!

Come on in! Here's a peg so you can hang up your coat. Leave your boots by the door and put on a pair of cozy slippers. There's cranberry-orange juice mulling and a crackling fire in the woodstove. There's a tin full of Christmas cookies for nibbling on, and more are baking. Golden Apricot Cakes are cooling on the kitchen table, and I'm just now scraping the last layer of Heavenly Delight fudge into a square pan. Sit down and visit awhile!

I've been thinking for a long time now about creating another blog -- one with a specifically Christmas theme. Would anyone be interested in reading about and planning for Christmas all year long? Well, I would, for one -- and I only have to take a look at the busy forums on, one of my favorite sites to visit, to come to the conclusion that plenty of other people would, as well.

I love Christmas -- and especially the Reason for Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself. I personally love the idea of planning for, preparing for, and thinking about Christmas, all year long. So I've decided to give this a try, for my own benefit if for nothing else. Here's where I'll detail my Christmas planning, stash my Christmas recipes and my craft and decorating ideas. I'll undoubtedly post a few photos and some of my little collection of vintage Christmas cards. I most likely won't post here every day; maybe only once a week or so at first, but in December I'll be here in the Christmas kitchen every day for sure. You're welcome to join me here too!