Friday, December 15, 2017

1959 vintage calendar page


I have found a few more of the little Scripture calendars that used to come bound in Woman's Day magazine's January issues.  Today I thought I would share the page from December 1959.

There are so many sweet details in this picture, but the best way for you to see them is just to click on the picture to enlarge it.  (I tried making it a larger size, but that cut some of the details out and that just wasn't a good thing, to my mind.)  The eyeglasses and book -- maybe a Bible, maybe a nature journal?; the plant in the window -- likely a poinsettia; the grandfather clock; even the cute homemade ornaments on the tree.  I remember making those woven heart baskets like those with students at the small Christian school where I helped out.  I brought in craft materials and simple patterns, and the kids worked on Christmas ornaments during their breaks all through December. 

Hope you've enjoyed this little vintage calendar page as much as I did and that it may have brought back some memories for you as it did for me.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Zesty Potato Soup


Photo from Taste of Home
I tried this recipe sometime last winter and filed it away to share in December, so here it is: Zesty Potato Soup.    I think I originally found the recipe in an early issue of Quick Cooking.  The picture looks so familiar, I think it may even have been on the cover of the magazine.

This soup is very easy to make and takes basic ingredients.  If you don't ordinarily keep chopped green chiles on hand, you will want to buy some for this recipe.  (I do try to keep them on hand, myself.) This is a very warming soup for cold December nights.  Tonight is predicted to be around 0º and it's already down to around 10º -- chilly indeed!  If I didn't already have our supper in the oven, I would be whipping up a batch of this soup.  I hope you enjoy the soup if you try the recipe.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A great resource!


This is going to sound silly ... but I really wish you would all check out my Christmas in July posts.  Go ahead -- go right over there to the label cloud in the sidebar at right and click on "Christmas in July". You'll find some great ideas there.  I can say this because most of them are not original with me.  I've linked to dozens of wonderful Christmas projects and ideas, many of which will be new to you.  I always find these great ideas in July (or earlier, if I schedule the posts) and I need to go back and look at them closer to Christmas when I may be in need of some fresh inspiration.  So go ahead ... check out Christmas in July tonight or tomorrow.  I plan to!

A little vintage mystery


In my cleaning and sorting, I'm finding many treasures as well as a lot of trash.  Often I wonder just why this or that was carefully saved.  The items I'm sharing today are a case in point.  There was a small cedar chest that had been on a bookshelf in my parents' living room for as long as I can remember.  I think my mother told us she had received it as a girl from a friend of their family, and that her three sisters had also received cedar chests at that time.

One of the things in the box was the Santa sticker at the top of the post.  Then there were two more stickers (only I think they called them "seals" back then), one of them still attached to pretty, very fancy green ribbon.  There was a very long piece of ribbon and it was carefully folded around all three stickers. 


I'm not sure why these trims were saved so carefully.  They obviously had been part of the wrappings for a very special gift.  My guess, though it may be inaccurate, is that they had trimmed the gift-wrapped cedar chest and that it had been a Christmas gift.  What do you think?

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Christmasy finished project!


I actually finished the stitching on this some time ago.  It has taken me this long to figure out how I wanted to complete this lovely December sampler.  It has languished around looking just like this for quite awhile.  ↓↓↓↓↓

I knew that I didn't want to frame this piece, but I wasn't sure what I did want to do with it.  However, in recent months I have been very inspired by my stitching friends Arlene at Nanaland and Sandy at
I Majored in Home Economics.  I saw a piece that Arlene had finished by using a clipboard and burlap, and was intrigued.  But this piece is unusually long and narrow, and I wasn't sure if that technique would work. 

During my cleaning and decluttering at my parents' home, I came upon a longer-than-usual clipboard.  An idea began to form in my mind and I thought that this December sampler might look very nice with homespun behind it, and I had some homespun in my stash.  After consulting with Arlene and getting some technical advice, I was ready to finish the piece, but lacked the time.  I finished it today and am very pleased with how it turned out!
The above photo is taken with the piece lying flat on a table so you can see more of the clipboard.  The photo at top of post is taken with the piece hanging on the wood-shingled wall in our front hallway.  What fun to have finished this to display in December!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

An unusual and pretty Christmas card

 I have never seen a Christmas card like this one, and most likely you all haven't, either.  It's a wooden card that was sent to my family one year, probably in the early 1960s, by friends in the lumber business.  A label on the back says it is made by Yankee Artists in Keene, New Hampshire from the wood of the silk cotton tree, which apparently grows in Africa and South America.  The cards were called SilkWoods.  I did a small amount of research to learn more about this company and see if it was still in business, but was unable to find any information.

The card is unique, for sure, and I love its farm and mountain scene.  I particularly like the green farmhouse contrasted with the red barn, and the mountains towering above.  Hope you've enjoyed this vintage card!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

A quick-to-make supper for a busy day


I've shared this recipe on my regular blog, but not here on my Christmas blog.  I happened to think of posting it here since it's what I prepared for supper last night.  You have to love an oven recipe that's fast to put together and contains pretty much an entire meal in a 13x9 dish!  Here's the recipe:

POLENTA BAKE

1 package of chicken sausage (fully cooked type such as Al Fresco) -- in the sweet apple flavor
1 large sweet onion
1 large apple (Honey Crisp is the best!) or 2 smaller apples
1 tube garlic and herb polenta
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (optional)

Have a 9 x 13-inch baking dish ready and just add the ingredients as you prepare them.  Slice up the chicken sausages.  I slice each one lengthwise and then cut them into about 1/4-inch slices crosswise.  Peel the onion, cut it in half and cut each half into wedges.  (Or cut them smaller if your onion is really huge.)  Wash, core and slice the apples into wedges.  Don't bother to peel them.  Then slice your polenta.  I cut it in quarters lengthwise and then slice it between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thick.  Now drizzle some olive oil (at least a tablespoon, but it's up to you) over the ingredients in the baking dish.  Salt and pepper to taste if you like.  Stir everything together well.

Bake at 375º for 1 hour.

It's so easy to just slice up a few things, stir the mixture, and pop the dish in the oven. You can adjust the quantities to feed your family.   I often use an extra apple and/or onion.  The apples are just so good this way.  The dish smells delicious as it bakes, too.  Sides could be about anything -- a salad, a rice dish, a vegetable like broccoli or green beans.  This time, I had some of the microwave-ready potatoes from Little Potato Company, in the savory herb flavor, so I just used a package of those  as a side dish and that was plenty for us.

Hope this quick and delicious meal may be a December lifesaver for someone else!


Friday, December 08, 2017

A new-to-me mailbox card!


If you've been reading here long at all, you know of my love for Christmas cards depicting scenes that include mailboxes.  In my current cleaning and sorting spree, I've found maybe a half dozen of cards with this type of seen, ones I had never seen before.  They are all different.  I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I found the first one ... and then there were more!

This one has some interesting elements: the barn in the background; the horse and sleigh; the sprig of holly in with the cards and package; the clump of birch trees at right.  As always, I am thoroughly charmed by these nostalgic images.  Hope you've enjoyed seeing this one!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tips for mailing those Christmas packages


I'm not by any means an expert on this, but I have learned a few things over a dozen years of mailing packages to loved ones in a distant time zone.  When I mentioned doing click and print labels and scheduling carrier pickups of priority mail packages, over on my other blog, one of my readers told me she had learned something new.  She had been standing in long lines!  That made me aware that there are probably other readers who might benefit from my package-mailing tips.

1.  One of the biggest, and the postal service always tells you this, is mail early.  I will never forget the year we spent over $60 to mail a package to Nevada because a) the box was huge; and b) the hour was late. 

2.  Flat rate priority mail boxes are the very best deal for mailing to distant states because they will ship for one flat rate regardless of how much they weigh.   The boxes come in small, medium (two different shapes of box), and large.  The rates, of course, vary with the size of the box.
Photo from USPS.com
Of course, if you are mailing local and your items are relatively light, flat rate will not be a good deal for you.  You will want to have your packages weighed so you don't pay more postage than necessary. 

3.  Click'n'Ship means you can pay for and print postage right online.  This is very easy indeed if you are using the flat rate boxes.  Below you see a printed-out label affixed to a box.
Photo from USPS.com
4.  If you have printed your label and affixed it to your box, you can schedule a carrier pickup.  This is great and I have used this service countless times.  If you schedule the pickup to take place during your regular mail delivery, there is no charge for this service.  There are a number of options as to where you will leave the package for pickup -- at or in the mailbox, at the front door, on the porch, and so on. You can schedule a pickup the night before for the next day.

5.  If your gifts for your faraway loved ones tend to include books, you can send those via media mail  for a pittance.  You will have to go to a post office for this option, but it is really helpful, as books are heavy.  You will definitely want to mail early if you go this route.  It's been my experience that media mail gets there almost as quickly as parcel post, but it doesn't always work out that way, so plan ahead if you choose to do this.

6.  Finally, if you find that you do need to do your mailing of packages at a post office, consider using a different post office to do so.  My local post office is downtown, less than 5 minutes away, but there are parking issues and nearly always a lengthy line at this time of year.  Rather than waste time and energy, I use the post office in the next town.  It's only 10 minutes away, parking is ample and easy, and I have never waited in a line there regardless of the time of year. 

Just a few simple tips.  I am sure there is much more that could be said on this subject, but I trust that these hints are helpful to someone!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Secret Spice Cookies


The Secret Spice Cookies were the one cookie on my baking list that I don't already have here on my blog, so I promised to share the recipe.  They are a lot like Gingersnaps or Molasses Crinkles, but with a notable difference.  Read on!

Secret Spice Cookies

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soft shortening (like Crisco®) or use softened butter
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses 
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
Additional sugar for dipping tops of cookies

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Cream the sugar and shortening (or butter) together until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg and then the molasses.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add to the sugar mixture and and thoroughly combine to form a dough. 

Form dough into 1-inch balls and dip tops in additional sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased (or parchment-lined, my choice) cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350º, or until set.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies. 

Happy Baking!



Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Sweet vintage stockings


Many of my readers know that I'm cleaning out my childhood home.  Spending hours at it.  In some ways it's sort of like a treasure hunt because I never know what I will find.  These sweet vintage mini felt stockings are a case in point.  There were several different designs, about eight stockings in all, I think, but the two I'm showing here are my absolute favorites.  Each had a price tag pinned to it; these little stockings were 10¢ each!!  I love the one at top.  In case you can't read it, the little tag by the poinsettias says "Season's Greetings".
This one is cute too, with the tree, birds, and forest animals.  What a fun find!  I will have fun displaying these each year!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Last-Minute Fruitcakes


Last week I promised to share the recipe for Last-Minute Fruitcakes, which call for the homemade candied pineapple and cherries I shared that day.  You could use that candied fruit in any recipe calling for candied cherries or pineapple, but these little fruitcakes are very good too.  They are called "last-minute" because there is no need to bake them days ahead to allow them to mellow, as many old-time recipes specified.  Here's the recipe:

LAST-MINUTE FRUITCAKES

4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
12 eggs
3 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Candied Pineapple, cut up
Candied Cherries, halved
1 Tblsp. grated lemon peel

Sift together flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.  Set aside 1/3 cup of this mixture to toss with the fruit.  (This helps prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottoms of the cakes.)

Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.  Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing well.  Add the lemon peel.

Toss the fruits and nuts with the reserved 1/3 cup flour.  Stir into batter.

Heat the oven to 275º. 

The recipe calls for greasing and flouring a dozen 10.5 ounce soup cans to bake the cakes in.  This does produce very cute cylindrical cakes.  However, today's soup cans have that funky rim at the top from the pull-tab.  I cannot imagine that the cakes would come out of the pans very easily with that rim in the way.

So I would recommend using a dozen tiny loaf pans instead.  Grease and flour them (or use the special baking spray that contains both).  Spoon the batter into the pans, filling to 1 inch from the top.  Bake at 275º (a "very slow oven") for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cakes test done. 

I would let them set in the pans for 5 minutes before removing the loaves to a rack to cool.

If desired, the cooled cakes may be frosted with an icing made by combining 2 cups confectioners sugar, 1 Tblsp. soft butter, 1 Tblsp. milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Blend well; drizzle over cakes.  Decorate with candied fruit.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

December 1965 calendar


I have always enjoyed the calendars which came in Woman's Day magazines in years past.  The lovely illustrations and Bible verses make them so special.  I recently found one from 1965 and thought I would share it. 

At top, you see the page for December.  This illustration and verse are such great reminders.  What do you think they are all watching?  My guess might be an outdoor Christmas tree lighting.  I love this verse, as combined with this picture it reminds me that even in life's busy moments we need to let our light shine and make sure our lives are bringing glory to God ... especially in this season which is all about Him.

Below you see the front page of the 1965 calendar.  I decided to include it too because it has such a festive wintry look. 
Hope you've enjoyed this vintage treasure!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

How to make your own candied cherries and pineapple


Years ago, I made my own candied fruit for some fruitcakes I wanted to bake as kitchen gifts.  Does anyone else remember Farm Journal cookbooks?  They were some of my favorites.  As I've mentioned before, I think that these delightful books were sort of the precursor of Taste of Home magazine.  They were well done; there was a Farm Journal Test Kitchen and so on.  But there were chatty comments accompanying many of the recipes, detailing where the recipes came from or a bit of their history.  My mother and I both loved these books, and we owned many.

The Farm Journal Country Cookbook is where I found this recipe, in a chapter on Country Cakes and Frostings.  A special section within the chapter talks about Surprisingly Different Fruitcakes.  Oh, I can't help myself -- I am going to have to give you a taste of the prose that introduces this section:

""Many women treasure their mothers' and grandmothers' fruitcake recipes and fondly dream, when the first thoughts of the Christmas holidays arrive, of baking these old-fashioned loaves.  One look at the recipes, yellow with age, reminds them of the giant-size yields and the time required to bake these cakes.  The search for tasty substitutions starts.  This annual post-Thanksgiving kitchen drama inspired us to offer you smaller and simpler recipes that yield big dividends in taste."

The candied fruit directions are from a recipe called Last-Minute Fruitcakes.  I remember them as being very good, so I will share the recipe later this month.  But for now, I will share the fruit recipe.

CANDIED PINEAPPLE AND CHERRIES
 2 20-ounce cans of sliced pineapple (for this you want the kind that's packed in syrup, not juice)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 2/3 cups syrup drained from pineapple
3 8-ounce jars maraschino cherries, well drained

Drain the pineapple, reserving the syrup.  You will need 1 2/3 cup.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and pineapple syrup in a heavy 10-inch skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils.  Cook until temperature reaches 234º on a candy thermometer.

Add a third of the pineapple slices; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 25 minutes or until pineapple is transparent around edges.  Remove from skillet with slotted spoon and place pineapple on a wire rack set over waxed paper.  Repeat with remaining pineapple, cooking a third of the slices each time.

Then add the drained maraschino cherries to the skillet.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Again, remove the cherries from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place the candied cherries on a wire rack over waxed paper to drain completely.  Let the candied fruit dry for 24 hours at room temperature before using or storing.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Come on into the Christmas kitchen!


Yes, the Christmas kitchen will hopefully have an open door every day in December.  I so love spending time in my Christmas kitchen and I welcome all of you to visit.  We'll share recipes, craft and decorating ideas, poems, vintage finds ... just anything friends might share across a kitchen table during the delightfully festive month of December.

For today, here is my tentative Christmas baking list for 2017.

Many of the recipes are already here on the blog, and I'll try and share any that are not.   See the links below:

Sacher Torte Cookies
Almond Shortbread Thumbprints
Christmas cut-out cookies (This post actually has recipes for three different kinds of cut-out cookies.  The one I plan to make this year is the third one on the list.)
Chocolate Spritz
Gingerbread Men
Macaroon Kiss Cookies
Eggnog Log Cookies
Whipped Shortbread Cookies
Chocolate Mint Crisps

As far as I can tell, the only recipe on my list which I haven't ever posted is the Secret Spice Cookies.  Look for that recipe to appear on the blog soon.

Happy Baking!