Saturday, February 24, 2018

Handmade Christmas

Dear Wise Christmas Sisters,

Yesterday, Papa and me went to the Dollar Store, and I got so many cute things. I put way more in my shopping basket than what I need. Then, just before I got to the check out, I put a bunch of stuff back. I will say about candy and crackers, “Oh, I don’t need them I can make them.” And I will look over my cart and think of what I can make at home and not buy.

I used to make crackers out of left over bread dough. Just roll out the bread dough really thin and then cut it in squares with a pizza cutter. Then prick holes in the squares and salt them or put parmesan cheeese over the top, and bake them like cookies. You could put garlic and pepper on them. But the old time Mothers never bought crackers … they made them.

And I used to make bread sticks a lot to use with soup. Just take your bread dough and flatten it on a pan and let it rise about 15 minutes … not long. Then just cut strips with your pizza cutter. I would fix these plain and then, when they came out of the oven, I would butter them and put Parmesan cheese on ’em. Our children would eat these as they played outside on winter evenings after supper. They would run in the house, “Mom, can I bring out bread sticks for Nathan and Tiffany?” (neighbor children.) I would say “Sure, I have plenty.” And my bread sticks were big and fat and, when you ate one, you got filled up.

Anytime I made bread, I made a lot of dough and made bread rolls, cinnamon rolls, and a few loaves of bread. At Christmas, I would take my bread dough and make 3 long strands of bread. I would sugar and spice the long ropes with cinnamon and brown sugar and butter. Then I would braid the pieces. Sometimes, I would put the braided dough on a long cookie sheet and then flatten it so it would be wide, then let it rise and bake it. After it was done, I would decorate the bread. Sometimes, I would sprinkle on homemade green sugar. But then sometimes, I would put some butter frosting on it and color this green. Then I would take the marachino cherries, slice them in half, and put them on the bread. And then put pecans on it, like every other one. Pecan and then cherry, etc., down the center of the loaf. If ya just used a package of pecans sparingly, and the cherries, you can make a lot of Christmas bread with them. Then sometimes I would make the cinnamon braid and I would put it in a circle and bake it like that, in a round pan. Or make a circle with the dough and put it on a large cookie sheet and it will turn out like a Christmas wreath. And then just decorate it like a Christmas Wreath.

You could even use the frozen bread dough for some of this until you felt sure enough of yourself to make your own. But a bread machime, I think, would interrupt my creativity. But, ya know, with a big family I would just make up a big bunch of bread dough and make things for Christmas. And we always give Christmas bread to the neighbors. To use the frozen bread dough, just put your loaf out on the cupboard and let it soften, and then slice it length wise in thirds. Then butter it and put the cinnamon on it and the brown or white sugar. Then braid it up tight and put it in a loaf pan and let it rise, and bake it. When it is done and cooled, you could frost it with butter frosting. White frosting with colored sugar on the top looks “Christmasy.” Or stick nuts and cherries on the top of the bread, down in the frosting, so it will stick good.

Butter Frosting: Just take a stick of butter, put it in your sauce pan, and melt it. Put in about a fourth cup of milk. Then, just add as much powdered sugar as ya need to make a thick frosting. (I have never used a recipe for this — sorry.) But then, at the end, just put in vanilla. There were years, back raising the children, that I would run out of powdered sugar. So I would use half powdered sugar and half flour. I really like it better with using half flour. Ya have to keep stirring when ya use the flour and let it thicken.

And, ya know, I couldn’t afford all the sugars when we had all the kids home. Often, I would make the powdered sugar with putting plain table sugar in my blender with a bit of white flour, and then just blend it up. This makes a nice powdered sugar, and often I would add molasses to my white sugar to make brown sugar. Heck, if I got white sugar and plenty of it for baking, I was cookin’ on all 4 burners, huh?

But I always just made up my mind that my children would not have lean Christmases, as long as I could buy flour and lard and sugar. I mean, I would not confess negative over my Home Christmas. If the children would ask to invite the neighbor children in for cocoa and treats, then I made the children welcome. My children were proud of Mama, that she made such good holiday treats. And, of course, many of the neighbor children had never tasted a homemade cookie, and they loved my baked goods. But I would just try to be gracious and kind hearted and enjoy the children.

Often, we didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of … just kidding. But, ya know, I would just get busy and make a Christmas. Papa would haul in a big 50 pound bag of white flour on his shoulder and I would make Christmas out of it. Papa would carry it in at Christmas and slam it on the table like it was fresh meat, and he would say, “There ya go, woman … ya got flour.” And with some meat and some potatoes and vegetables, we raised 6 children, and always had a Merry Christmas.

And I never started baking for Christmas unless I had a pot of homemade soup bubbling on the stove. Even if I started early morning, I had to have soup on the stove. Because once I got going on the baking, I didn’t want to stop and make dinner. So the older kids could serve their own soup and fix some for the little ones while I baked. It is a common sight to see spilled soup on my table, mixed with flour. Because I never baked without making soup first And then I would make the bread dough as the soup simmered. Then the first part of the dough I would make pan rolls. I would just take the dough before it rose and put it on my baking sheet and cut it like a cake? Then I just had this to rise once and I baked it, and it was ready for the family for lunch … just pan rolls.

But I was not a stingy mother who was always yelling out, “Don’t eat that! We wont have enough.” My children were all thin, and still are, but I always made sure that my children were well fed. I didn’t want them to get sick, as we couldn’t afford a doctor. So they had plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and much homemade vegetable soups and stews. I didn’t think about vitamins; I thought about having a wholesome homemade home to raise my babies in. I thought of their souls and their comfort.

I always had the coffee on for Papa … he needed it … it was a comfort to him, and especially at Christmas, with a piece of cherry pie. A cup of coffee is very comforting to a man, and a hot supper.

A wise Mother builds her house, and especially at Christmas time.

Make a homemade Christmas for your dear Families … don’t think about going to the store first. Go through the pantry cupboards and look at what you have. Do you have some hamburger, and some potatoes and vegetables? Fry up some meat with some onions and fresh pepper and salt. This is the smell of home and family. After the meat has cooked, just throw in some tomato soup and start adding vegetables. Add water to cover the vegetables. Let this cook slowly on the stove, or bake it in a slow oven for a few hours.

Then, if you have no flour or sugar, at least you have lunch started, and you can make a quick trip to the store. But if you have flour and sugar, just stay home and start making Christmas.

If you have to go out, here is a list of things you may need.

  1. Well, first off make sure you have plenty of flour and sugar, and shortening or lard.
  2. I always have cocoa in my cupboard.
  3. Do you have cinnamon? For winter, I often fix a shaker of cinnamon and sugar for the table or to put next to the stove to cook with.
  4. And, even now, as the children are grown, I still have a huge box of instant milk that I cook with. Baby Rose drinks a lot of fresh whole milk, so I sometimes run out of milk and the instant milk is very handy to have to cook and bake with. And God knows I NEVER measure instant milk. To make gravy or to bake with, just throw some dry milk in, and add water until it looks right. If I had to measure stuff all the time, I would be as crazy as a Loon. Not to mention, I wouldn’t get anything else done.
  5. Well, ya need eggs …do ya have some? No? Well, write it down on your list.
  6. Ya got chocolate chips? If you can afford them, be sure to get some for the Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies. And, heck, you don’t need to put a whole package in your recipe. Just use a fourth of a bag per recipe. JillR, if she ran out, would just put one chocolate chip on each cookie. Her kids couldn’t wait to eat to the middle of the cookie to get the chocolate chip. She could make a package of chocolate chips last for months. If the cookies had just one chocolate chip in them, they were “Chocolate Chip Cookies,” by golly, and no one complained. If you are poor, its legal to B.S. your kids. (That’s the law, I think.) But, ya know, if Mama is ok, then all is well at the house.
  7. Hey, and don’t forget to buy coffee at the store for Papa and the neighbors who stop by for a Christmas visit.
  8. And, ya know, if ya plan to make Cocoa Mix for the holidays, don’t forget the instant milk. I used to make ours with just the instant milk and sugar and cocoa. I mean, if you have the money, it’s nice to buy the instant coffee cream to put in it, or a can of the cocoa drink powder, but ya don’t need it. The kids won’t know the difference, anyway. Be sure to put your cocoa mix in a big fancy jar, or even a coffee can, decorated with old-fashioned Christmas paper and a brown string. Put a third cup measureing cup down in the mix, so the kids know how much to use. And, if you are rich, buy a vanilla bean to stick down in the dry mix. But, if ya ain’t rich, buy a few packages of instant vanilla puddng mix to put in the Cocoa Mix. That makes it MMMM Good.

These are simple things to make, and it will keep you from running to the store all the time. Just fill your pantry with as much as you can so that you can feel free to make a homemade Christmas, and many pots of soups and stews.

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