Monday, December 18, 2017

Archive for December, 2003

An Old-Fashioned Home

I just put my turkey in the oven for our dinner tonight.

I was sitting in the living room and looking at the low and sweet Christmas lights. What an old fashioned Christmas home!

The presents under the tree are humble, but there, and wrapped awaiting the looks of surprises upon our children’s faces. Just “love gifts” — warm shirts, gloves, and hats — and for the girls Tiff and Mary, bubble bath and lotions and cologne. Also, I made a cute package for the girls with a Christmas hot pad and Christmas dish and Santa Claus dish towel. Then, to each of the kids, we gave a gift certificate. To Mary and Brandon, freshly married only for 5 months, we gave a certificate to the grocery store, and to Dan and David, too. Just little things that say, “We love you, kids. Merry Christmas.” Of course, we already exchanged Christmas gifts with the older children at Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, as we came home from shopping, I could smell the stew cooking in the crockpot, even on the front steps outside. It’s no wonder it drew Danny home. But that is what an old-fashoined Christmas home is to smell like … food cooking and folks laughing and giving to each other humble gifts. It’s the spirit of giving and joy.

This morning, I put my crock pot back in place with a little beef stew left. I have added a can of mixed vegetables and some beef gravy mix. It will make a light soup to eat for lunch with crackers and cheese.

The crock pot meals are such helpers for me around the Christmas season. To make the stew, I just put in some partly cooked hamburger, then some onions and carrots and potatoes. (I leave the onion whole, as Papa and his seeds are onion haters. They like the taste but wouldn’t want to eat one.) Anyway, I put in some cabbage, too. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato soup, and a beef gravy mix from Aldis. Then just add some water … ya can’t go wrong. Put in salt and black pepper.

Then, when the stew is about all gone, you can add some cans of vegetables and water and make a nice light beefy soup. After it boils, I will add some broken up spaghetti. I like to have soup out in case Dan or David stop by, or Mary. This way, I can visit and feed the company at the same time.

One thing I do, too, is this. At the end of the day, I just take the whole crock pot out and put it in a cold place, like the fridge or the porch. Then, the next day, after I have had stew, I just bring the crock pot pan in again, put it back in the crock pot thing, turn it back on, and add the cans of vegetables, etc. to make a light soup. It’s easy and keeps things movin’ around here. Papa is honestly always hungry, so this keeps him happy.

And, ya know, too, I want to say that … Boy, how can I say this? I didn’t always have a happy season at Christmas. I had to stay up alone on Christmas Eve and put toys together by myself. But I did because I lived from my visons from within my heart. The ones God gave me for a restored family, ya know? And now you can imagine why, as I look around me, in a safe and warm Christmas nest … my eyes pour out tears of gratitude to my Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord gave me a new husband, one who cares about me and my children. He gave me exceedingly and abundantly more than I could think or ask. He really did, and I praise Him for it. Out of the first twelve years of my marriage, I think Papa and I were together only a few years at Christmas. It made me very sorrowful and yet, I had children who needed to have a Christmas, and I made one for them. I had to live by the promises of God and nothing less. And He did not forsake me, and He made it all up to me a hundred times over.

I wonder if this is His presence I sense this morning, as the house seems like His manger, lowly and quiet and silent with love.

Christmas Cookies

Yesterday, I made a about a barrel of cookies. I used a few of the recipes in the December issue of Parents magazine. I made the rainbow cookies, and then there was an ad for peanut butter and I made the recipe for peanut butter cookies. The peanut butter cookies, I baked too long and they were as hard as rocks. But the key to good cookie baking is to take the cookies out when they are barely brown. This keeps them soft.

I make my own colored sugar. I just take white sugar and squirt the food coloring in it and stir it up. Like take out about 3 bowls. Put about a half cup of sugar in each bowl. Then put red food coloring in one, green in another, and maybe yellow in another bowl, and stir it up. You may have to work it in with your finger tips. I really like the homemade colored sugar better than the store bought because it is finer and stays on the cookies better. It looks more old fashioned and more of a softer look. The store bought colored sugar is so coarsely ground and, often, the sugar just bounces off when you sprinkle it on. But the home made stays on better.

Well, the rainbow Christmas cookies is just a sugar cookie recipe. Then you make the dough into logs and roll the logs into the colored sugar on your table. Then you slice them and bake them. You get over a dozen out of each log. When they are done, they are white in the center and colored on the outside rims. They are very colorful and fun to make. It’s a big recipe and you can refrigerate the dough in the logs, wrapped in tinfoil. So, if you are real busy, then you can make up the dough on one day and then slice and bake them the next day, or whenever. I didn’t get all of mine baked yesterday. I still have about four logs to go. But this way, you have some nice cookie dough in the refrigerator when you need it.

A Christmas Home

I am up brewing coffee. Just went to let the cat out this morning and he didn’t even want to go. It’s snowing with a cold wind blowing. Kitty is sitting by the door comtemplating. He wants to go out but just ain’t quite sure of it. After Papa wakes up this morning, we will be putting up our Christmas tree, but first I wanted to share some Christmas craft ideas with you Mothers on this early, quiet winter morning.

I have this large, old green basket that I use especially at Christmas. I set it out on the buffet and put packages of hot drink mixes in it. At one side, I may put out a jar of homemade cocoa mix, or a jar with herbs for tea, or just tea bags in a cute jar. I decorate any jar. Just save all of your little pickle jars or mayonnaise glass jars, clean off the labels, and then decorate them up with red ribbons — or maybe paste the front of an old Christmas card on the front.

It’s fun for friends and family when they come to your house to visit and mix up a hot drink. Our kids loved the hot cocoa mix. I usually made that in a gallon jar. They would invite a friend over and would mix their own hot cocoa.

One thing I love to make for a coffee creamer is this. Just take a jar and put in some of that Creamora, or some store brand of dry instant cream, and to this, add a package of the vanilla instant pudding mix. Like to two cups of Creamora, add one pudding mix, more or less. This makes a vanilla sugar. Or you could add a butterscotch instant puddng mix.

In the old days at Christmas, we Christmas sisters would buy a few vanilla beans and put these in our cocoa mix or in our sugar for holiday baking. But, mercy! Those vanilla beans cost about three bucks for one now. They can forget that. We used to get them two for a buck, I think.

But, anyway, just find an old basket and fill it with Christmas cheer. And beside your basket, set out some Christmas mugs. Ya know, if you are low on baskets, the Salvation Army has loads of them and they are cheap. I just wash mine out with soap and water. Turn it upside down and let them dry over the hot air furnace vent. Also, in your basket, you could put some paper napkins, along with the hot drink mixes. And maybe a jar with the little marshmallows for the cocoa mix.

I just make my cocoa mix by how it looks. I make the flavored coffees, too. But I just make them by inspiration. I take the instant coffee and add brown sugar and dried cream, and put this in a jar for anyone who likes it like this. You could put in the pudding mix, too. For a mocha mix, just add cocoa to the instant coffee and sugar and cream.

Maybe you could line your holiday basket with a cute Christmas towel from the Dollar Tree. They just cost a buck. I got one yesterday and Papa bought me one, too, when I wasn’t looking. He usually buys me a Christmas coffee mug each year, too. I mean all this stuff is dirt cheap at the Dollar Store. You can’t hardly afford not to buy this stuff, and it all adds a Christmas cheer to the family home.

Also, you can make your own potpourri for the Christmas fireside jars. Just take orange peels or lemon or lime or grapefruit peels and cut them up with your scissors, in strips. Put them in a favorite old-fashioned pan or crock bowl, or a bucket … whatever. Anyway, mix this up with some pine cones from under your pine tree or your neighbor’s pine tree. Mix in some cheap cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, bay leaves and whatever. Maybe add some old dry sticks from outside, or nuts in a shell. Just stir this all up. The peels will dry in the pine cones. Stir all this around every day, and it will all dry. If you wanted to, you could buy some scented oil at the Dollar Store to put in it. And then, to this mix, string the white Dollar Store lights.

Another thing I do during the Christmas season and well, all winter long, is this. I always have my big 2 gallon coffee pot on the stove with water in it to keep the air moist. This is a huge old fashioned white enamel coffee pot. Papa got it for me many years ago in a junk pile. It is a favorite kitchen pot. It has a bale handle and a handle at the side to hang on to. It’s a handle at the bottom; it goes from side to side — like to hold in the palm of your hand and give you some leverage.

Anyway, to this simmering pot, I add each day an old bottle of spice of some kind out of my spice cabinet. This keeps my spice cabinet cleaned out and the house smelling spicey. You shouldn’t keep your spices for year after year. They get old and this is one way to get rid of them without feeling wasteful. My aunt gave me some spices that she probably kept for 40 years, just using them on the holidays. Well, I used them right away in my simmering pot.

Now, you could use any cooking vessel for your simmering pot. Maybe an old canner from the Salvation Army. Just make sure your pot is big and will fit well on the back of your stove, and that it won’t easily boil dry. You don’t want to start a fire … like “ye ole gal.” Just turn it off when you leave the kitchen after doing dishes or other chores. You could even take an old crock pot that you aren’t using and put the spices in this for a humidifier. If you have little ones, make sure the pot is way away from them. If you have toddlers that climb on cabinets, forget this Christmas idea.

But, ya know, when adding your old outdated herbs to your pot, just add stuff that would go together. Like part of a bottle of basil would go with an old bottle of onion or garlic powder. If it is stuck in the bottom of the bottle, just add water to it and it will come out. Or you could put in some old black pepper or paprika. I love the smell of onions, garlic and basil together. Smells like an old Italian home where Mama is making her famous spaghetti sauce. Or you could put in orange peels and other citrus fruit peels, and add the old bottles of ginger or nutmeg or cloves and cinnamon. And, for cryin’ out loud, the spices at the Family Dollar store are only two for a buck, and those spices are nice and fresh (or a whole lot fresher than what ya got in your spice shelf that are years old.) Just start out with fresh spices this year for your Christmas baking.

Ya know, lately, I have been hunting for the cinnamon sticks and can’t find them cheap. Haven’t found any to put in tea.

Speaking of tea … I used to let my children make tea and stir it with a candy cane, for Christmas. Or the cocoa mix can be served to the children with a candy cane in it. Candy canes are so cheap at the stores, too. We often decorated the tree with them. My children all loved candy canes and would beg all Christmas season to eat them off the tree. We would let them. Heck, you are only a kid once. I know this is alot of sugar for children, but I didn’t feed my children a lot of sugar except at Christmas or other holidays. And they were all hyper, anyway, and it never hurt them any.

Well, I had better get to practicing what I preach and get to my home duties

One other thing I wanted to tell you is that usually each year … well, in the fall … I buy an amaryllis flower to watch grow in the house. It blooms about Christmas time if you plant it in the fall. But you could get one, even now, and start it and it would be about ready for the New Years. I have a red one this year and it is just starting to barely come out. It will be in full bloom for Christmas. I only paid three bucks for it, and oh! it gives the family such joy to watch it grow. The stalk is over a foot high and the blooms will be huge.

Home Made Candles

I had this big, dark green candle. I didn’t really like it, so I melted it down for the wax, making sure I kept the candle part with the wick in the center whole. So it went from a fat candle to a skinny one. I made one candle by putting it in a quart jar. The other half, I put in a little round enamel pan red and white … it is a really old pan … chipped … I had gotten it at a garage sale. It’s probably 1930s? So, while the candle was soft and in the pan, I put pine cones around it, and over the pine cones, I sprinkled whole rosemary and whole cloves. I had dried some of the tiny red hot peppers this summer, and I put those around the pine cones for color. It made the sweetest old fashioned winter candle and it really smells good, too. When Papa got home from work, he saw it and really liked it. It looks very woodsy and back to the land.

Also last evening, before Jim got home from work and had supper, I changed my big table. We have two leaves in our table because of all the family being here. But I will leave it large for Christmas, too. Anyway, I took the Thanksgiving plastic cloth off and put on a pretty old-fashioned Christmas tablecloth, plastic and pretty. It looks a little like the Mary Ingelbert designs. My table now would seat ten, so it’s a long tablecloth.

I get my tablecloths for a song. I only pay about three bucks for them. I get them at the Dollar Stores or wherever. I have to cover my big table in plastic because I use it to work on. My kitchen doesn’t have the counter space, or much space of any kind, so I use my big table to roll out pies and noodles and cookie dough. I use it to do my crafts on and canning, etc. I would be lost without my big table. But I do keep it well covered in at least a couple layers of tablecloths.

Last night, I decorated my table. I put my old fashioned candles on it that I had just made. Then a basket of napkins and, also, a rooster cookie jar that I use for crackers. He is sitting there all proud of himself. But his dark red comb was needed to add a Christmas red to my table. Papa had bought some oranges and bananas and I put them in an old red and white bowl and set them on the table. (Always, the old fashioned families had oranges at Christmas.)

For my paper Christmas napkins, this is what I do. I buy cheap white paper napkins and then some pretty Christmas napkins. I put out just a few of the Christmas napkins and use mostly the white ones. It’s too expensive to use the Christmas napkins all through the season. For Papa’s meals, I give him a nice napkin, and for company. But my kids come in and see napkins on the table and use them for everything. But I can make a nice package of Christmas napkins last for the whole season. Also, I bought the plain red napkins at a sale some place … can’t remember now … but I will use them, too, if I need to — if I run out.

I like to have things out on the table in case Papa wants a snack or whatever. I always have a tall cup of spoons on the table, too. One item I always have on my table is my little sugar bowl. It is an enamel blue and white speckled little pot with a lid and bale handle. It looks really old-fashioned and woodsy.

My son John really drew me out when he was home. He admires the old time ways within me and seems to call me out. Both he and his wife Christine do this to me. John remembers me this way as he was growing up. John’s drawing this out of me is such a gift given to Mother from her children. He held an old treasure in his heart and drew it out and said, “Mom, remember?”

John went into my pantry before he left and started drawing out of there my old pans and jars. “Why don’t ya have this out, Mom? It’s neat”

“Oh, Johnny … Dad doesn’t think I should use stuff like that anymore.”

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