Monday, December 30, 2019

Just a peek at our Christmas

Just sharing a few photos of our Christmas decor and doings ... I don't want to neglect this blog completely.  I've been able to post every day over at my Christmas kitchen, so if you haven't visited there you may want to.  Link is in the sidebar. →

We ended up using both colored and white lights on our tree this year, a make-do situation that worked out okay.
The colander was a fun project I saw on Thelma’s Days.  Mine didn't come out as nice as Thelma's, but I'm still pleased with it. I hope to blog about that project tomorrow on my Christmas blog.

My December hutch is below.  I've since tweaked it a bit, and it will be tweaked even more for winter, adding glittery houses and taking away the Christmas trees, etc.

Some photos from our daughter Carrie's home on Christmas day are below.
 Carrie's hot cocoa bar for this winter
 A cookie tray (only slightly depleted) that I brought for Christmas dinner
 The dinner table.  So beautiful! 
And then a sweet little woodland vignette on a kitchen counter.  I love this!

And our annual shopping tradition with some of our local grands happened just the Saturday before Christmas this year.  Usually we manage it earlier than that.

So,  just a peek into our holidays.  Hope yours were as nice as ours.

Friday, December 27, 2019

End of the year sale at my Etsy shop!

Yes, now through December 31, 2019, selected listings are 20% off at my Etsy shop,  A New Hampshire Attic.  There are over 90 listings on sale, including things in the following categories: vintage Christmas, vintage gifting, vintage stationery, and paper ephemera.

If there's something you've been eyeing in one of those categories, you may want to take another look.   However, as always, no pressure at all to do anything but window shop.  Looking through vintage things makes a lot of people happy, including me.  Happy browsing!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

I hope that all of my readers and friends had as wonderful a Christmas as Mr. T and I did.  It was a busy morning of cooking and wrapping gifts, culminating in a relaxed afternoon and evening of feasting, present-opening, and game-playing, always trying to keep in mind the true reason we are celebrating. 

I've thought so many times the past few days about how incredibly blessed we are that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.  Maybe you've been pondering thoughts like this as well.  I hope that you've all had a blessed day.  I know people today who are in distressing circumstances and may not feel very celebratory.  Yet we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus came to earth as a baby, that He came to save us from our sins.  And He is with us always. 

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Something that encouraged me today

... and I thought it could be a blessing to some of you as well.  Ever have the feeling that the Lord is trying to tell you something? 

Like many of us, I've only recently woken up to the fact that Christmas is next week.  Not sure why it took me so long, but it just seemed like I had plenty of time.  I was meandering my way through December, and it seemed like a lot was getting done, but really, apparently, not as much as I thought. 

On Sunday, I reached the conclusion that the handmade gifts I still had to do were not going to get done.  Once I faced that fact, I went to the grandkids' Amazon wish lists and chose substitute gifts to be sent to their home.  I then focused my attention on the gifts that I did have that needed to be wrapped and sent, and yesterday I got a lot of that done along with baking and candy making.  Last night I got a box packed and scheduled a carrier pickup for it.  (I could have done both boxes, but didn't have another one the correct size.  I always ship Priority Mail flat rate to Nevada.  It's the only way to go for shipping such a distance.)

This morning during my prayer time, I turned to the section in my prayer journal where I pray about issues relating to health, energy, and purpose.  I keep a marker in the various sections of my prayer journal, and pray through them a page at a time.  The page I "happened" to arrive at today was about keeping a schedule.

Proverbs 16:3 (at top of post) was the first Scripture listed on my prayer page.  The first point was *Be sure to pray before you make your plans.  There were four other points on the page:
*Add structure to your life.
*Plan ahead and reap God's blessings.
*Always allow for Plan B, God's plan!
*Seek to live an ordered life.
I prayed through these points and the verses relating to them, but still ...

Later I sat down at the computer to print postage for an Etsy order.  I noticed that one of my favorite bloggers had a new post titled Help for Your Scurrying and Worrying.  Did that title ever jump out at me!  Even though I really didn't have time, I clicked over to read it.  And wow, was I thankful that I had done so!

This post was exactly what I needed to read today.  I didn't think that I was worrying, but I sure was scurrying! 

Interestingly, the Scripture verse Denise chose to use for her encouraging post was Proverbs 16:3.

I read the post out loud to myself.  Then I took the time to pray through the 5 points Denise shared, including confessing my sin of fretting.

After I finished, I felt so much better!  And I was able to ask myself what really had to be done today.  I know God doesn't want me to neglect showing love to my family, so obviously their gifts and packaging stayed on the list.  I know He wants me to get exercise and spend quality time with people, so my walk stayed on the list.  And everything else that needed to get done did get done.

Later today I looked at my email and found one from Dayspring titled "How to Intentionally Plan for Rest."  What Scripture do you think was used?  Yep, Proverbs 16:3!  No question; God was speaking to me today.  So thankful I took time to listen!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Have you visited my Christmas kitchen this season?

If you haven't visited my Christmas blog, Mrs. T’s Christmas Kitchen, I hope that you will head on over.  I'm trying to post there every day, and have managed it so far.

I started out trying to post here at my kitchen table every day also, but that is not getting done daily at this point.  Too much real-life festivity going on!

Both here and at my Christmas kitchen you will find recipes, poems, cards, decorating and craft ideas, memories, and much more.

Click "Christmas" or "December Daily" or "Delights of December" in the label cloud in the sidebar here at this blog.  You will find plenty of posts to warm your heart (I hope!) and keep you in the Christmas spirit. 

At Mrs. T’s Christmas Kitchen, it's all Christmas, all the time.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A little festive progress

Life is crazy indeed these days.  Just a little festive progress being made, including these yummy cookies pictured above.  Mr. T used the recipe for Chocolate Butter Cookies and turned them into Sacher Torte cookies by filling them with jam (some apricot, some cherry) and topping with chocolate.

He also made a batch of Heavenly Delight this past week when he got out of work early one day.  It was delicious and we've already given some as gifts, so he needs to make another batch soon.

As mentioned earlier, I made Chocolate Orange Cookies for a cookie swap on Thursday.  They went over very well, and I've had a couple requests for the recipe.  I'd forgotten to add the chocolate chips when preparing the dough, so made half of the cookies with the chips and half without.  I think I liked them better without the chocolate chips, but many others liked them with the chips included. 

Yesterday was a very busy day which included a dump run, a bit of shopping at the Dollar Tree, cleaning the church, cookie baking, and supper with our young friends Sam and Jennifer (breakfast for dinner -- we love that!😋).

Today, Sunday, has been equally busy.  We both taught Sunday School -- then a church from a neighboring town brought their kids and young people to present a Christmas musical for us in the 10 a.m. service.  Four of our grandkids were involved with this and it was great fun.  They would be presenting it in their own church in the afternoon.  Following the musical, folks from both churches enjoyed a nice soup and bread luncheon downstairs in the fellowship hall.  It was wonderful that their pastor had the idea of presenting the musical at our church as well.  When people go to that much work practicing for such an event, it's fantastic to be able to present it more than once.

After lunch we enjoyed our annual gift exchange at church.  (We draw names.)  That was fun also.  Mr. T received some cozy-looking socks and lots of chocolate.  I received a pretty tree-shaped candle and a generous gift card for Hobby Lobby.  

After that, a handful of us -- two ladies, three men, two college age men and two guitars -- went to a few houses and sang Christmas carols.  (A number of folks had other commitments.)  It seemed a bit surreal to be singing Christmas carols standing in mud, looking at green lawns and enjoying temperatures in the 40s.  There was, however, plenty of brisk wind and even the odd snow shower to give it atmosphere.

Yes, a busy day.  If time allows, we may take four local grands on our annual Christmas shopping trip tomorrow. 
It's been a tradition with three of them for years, but little sister (now 5) may be deemed big enough to come along.  We will see.  And that (whenever it happens) will be another busy day!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Warming winter beverages

Image by Linda Toman from Pixabay
Last night at our informal cookie swap, I served two warming winter beverages.  I know the cranberry one is on my Christmas blog, but thought I would share them both here at my kitchen table as well.


The cider is so easy.  You need:

1 gallon cider
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon of broken cinnamon stick pieces
Coffee filter and kitchen string to make spice bag
1 orange
Additional whole cloves

Pour the cider into a large kettle and begin heating it.  

Place the whole spices in the center of the coffee filter and gather it up to form a little bag.  Tie it closed with a piece of kitchen string.  Drop the spice bag into the cider.

Wash the orange well and cut it into quarters.  Stick 2 whole cloves into each orange piece and add the orange quarters to the cider as well.  Heat for 1 hour or until nice and hot.  May be kept on Low for an hour or so, or transfer it to a slow cooker set on Low.


1 orange
12 whole cloves
a cinnamon stick
1 cup water
2 quarts cranberry juice cocktail -- I used the Apple & Eve brand, the kind without sugar that is 100% juice.  It includes apple and pear juices, but that's preferable to sugar.
3 Tblsp. brown sugar

(The recipe also calls for 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, but I don't think it's necessary.  Maybe if you were using a cranberry juice cocktail that includes sugar, it might be, but not using the 100% juice.)

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off thin strips of orange peel from the orange. Set the orange aside. Put the peel in a small saucepan with the cloves, cinnamon stick and water. Bring this mixture to a simmer; cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

In a larger saucepan combine all of the remaining ingredients. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into this larger saucepan. Using a strainer, strain the liquid from the spice/peel mixture into the larger saucepan as well. Add the lemon juice and brown sugar.  Heat the mixture in the large saucepan over low heat until it is hot. May be kept simmering over very low heat and ladled out as needed.

(For the cookie swap, I tried making this in a slow cooker and it worked beautifully.  About 2 hours before serving I put the cranberry juice into a 3-quart slow cooker and set it on high.  Then I peeled the orange and simmered the peel with the water, cloves and cinnamon stick for the 20 minutes as specified.  Then I strained this mixture into the slow cooker and added the juice of the orange and the brown sugar and let it all cook on high until ready to serve.  Then I turned off the slow cooker and it stayed plenty hot enough.)
Save the cranberry juice bottle to store any leftover beverage.  It reheats well by the mug in the microwave.

This recipe came from Cook & Tell, my old favorite cooking newsletter that is no longer in publication.   I discovered this beverage recipe a dozen years ago and it became an instant favorite of mine to serve to guests at holiday time.  I still love it -- it's so much fun to make! -- and people invariably ask for the recipe whenever I serve it.

Hope you will enjoy using these lovely recipes during this festive season!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Trying a new cookie recipe

So tonight I'm hosting a cookie swap here at my home for friends from church and anyone else they may invite.  As before (I did this a couple of years ago), I'm keeping it pretty low-key and relaxed.  No competition or anything, just a fun time to visit, eat yummy appetizers, sip mulled cider and cranberry juice, and exchange some cookies.  In addition to bringing a specified number of cookies, I'm asking each lady to bring along a "sweet thought": a memory, story, testimony or favorite Scripture to share.  It should be fun.

Photo from Ice Cream Inspiration
I found this recipe for Chocolate Orange Cookies on Pinterest back in 2016, and immediately pinned it to my Christmas Cookie Exchange! board.   I'm only now getting around to trying the recipe.

The flavors of chocolate and orange together are so festive!  They bring to mind those nifty chocolate oranges that are to be unwrapped and eaten a wedge at a time.  And these yummy chocolate dipped orange smiles that I make each Christmas and that are so delightful on cookie trays.
So yesterday I baked these cookies.   I was interrupted in the mixing of the dough and forgot about adding in the chocolate chips.  I had baked about half the cookies when I remembered.  So I used half the amount of chocolate chips and mixed them in with the remaining dough.  I will let the ladies at the swap decide which they think is better!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Brown paper gingerbread held up with strings

... this project is one of my favorite things!

I made these decorative gingerbread men many years ago, and they are still holding up well.  You can see them peeking out through the plaid bows and fabric trees on the chandelier in the photo above.

It seemed to me that it was time to post a craft project here in my daily December posts.  But what to write about?  I knew I'd written about these on my Christmas blog some time ago,  so I checked to see if I'd posted about them here at my kitchen table.  Apparently not!  So here we go.

These ornaments are simple and fun, so I thought others might like to try them as well.

You will need:

* Brown paper bag or a roll of brown kraft paper
* Pencil
* Gingerbread man cookie cutter (optional)
* Polyester fiberfill
* Sewing machine (threaded with color thread of your choice; white, tan, brown, or even red would work)
* Pins
* Thread and needle
* Scissors
* Dimensional squeeze-bottle paints in white, black (or dark brown)  and red

1. First draw (or trace, using the cookie cutter) two gingerbread man shapes for each ornament on the brown paper.  Cut out the shapes.

2. Pin the 2 shapes together and machine-sew most of the way around them, leaving room to poke in some fiberfill.  You don't want them too puffy; just use enough to give them a little dimension.

3. After adding the fiberfill, finish sewing the rest of the way around the shape.  Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching.

4. Thread a needle and add a hanging loop to the top of the gingerbread man by piercing it with the needle, going through both layers.  Trim to size desired and knot ends of thread together at the top.

5. Add eyes, smile, buttons, white "icing" trim and a little red heart if desired, using dimensional paint.

6. Allow paint to dry before hanging the ornament wherever you'd like.

These cute gingerbread men could be used in numerous ways.  If you eliminate the strings (or even if you don't), they would look cute piled in a bowl, maybe with a few real or faux apples and a few evergreen sprigs.

They can be hung from a chandelier as I have often done.  They would look really nice hung in the panes of a window, perhaps with a sprig of evergreen or holly or a red bow tied at the top.  You could use them to trim an indoor wreath or tie them to a wrapped gift.  And of course you could always hang them on the Christmas tree.

Have fun with this idea!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Christmas at Grandma's" -- a book review

Every now and then I like to post a book review.  I've done this mostly on my Christmas blog, and mostly for cookbooks.  I thought it would be fun today to review Christmas at Grandma's, a Gooseberry Patch cookbook published in 2015.

This is a book we got for free because my hubby has a recipe in it.  (I do too, but he is the one who "earned" the book with his recipe for Grampa's Sunday Waffles.  My recipe for homemade brown sugar pancake syrup was published in conjunction with it.)

Like all of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, this is filled with great recipes -- over 200 of them in this book.  There are a few memories sprinkled in here as well.

The first section is titled "Waking Up at Grandma's", and it contains loads of excellent breakfast recipes.  This is the section where our recipes are located.  Some of the others sound fantastic too -- Egg & Cheese Holiday Pie (recipe makes two); Farmers' Breakfast Casserole; Ranchero Breakfast Casserole, and Santa's Cranberry Waffle Sauce.

Next is "Holiday Open House" which includes appetizers, snacks, and several different kinds of punch.  These recipes all sound so good and I am going to get some inspiration for kitchen gifts from some of the snack mix recipes -- like the Grandma's Cocktail Nibbles which sound almost exactly like my great-aunt Bessie's Chex mix -- simply called "Bessie's Mix" in our family.  Some of the appetizers sound perfect for the cookie swap -- like the Holiday Crab & Artichoke Dip and the Ham & Cheese Puffs.

Then comes "All the Trimmings" with soups, breads, salads and sides.  I have made the Italian Sausage Soup and Ruth's Creamy White Chicken Chili from this section, and both are excellent.  Christy's Taco Soup is one that I want to try.  Granny's Baked Macaroni & Cheese and Easy Baked Artichokes both sound wonderful, as do many others.

"Holiday Dinners to Remember" includes main courses, meats, fish and casseroles.  Poppy's Italian Sausage & Potatoes sounds wonderful -- an easy oven meal.  Christmas Ravioli Bake has lots of red, green and white for a seasonal look.  Martha's Green-Chiladas and Turkey Tourtiere are others I want to try.

"Save Room for Dessert" comes next -- and can't you just hear Grandma saying that?  There are cakes, pies, trifles and more.  No cookies -- those are in the next chapter.  Banana Pudding Trifle, Grandma's Creamy Cherry Dessert, and Eggnog Trifle are all recipes I want to try.

Lastly, there's a section filled with "Grandma's Christmas Cookies" -- just like a generously filled cookie jar in Grandma's kitchen!   Chocolate Gingerbread Men and Jam Tarts sound good to me.  This chapter also contains a few beverage recipes, like Poinsettia Punch and a hot mocha drink.  At the end are recipes for treats like fudge and popcorn balls.

Like all of Gooseberry Patch's cookbooks, this is liberally sprinkled with gorgeous illustrations and lovely Christmas tips for decorating, entertaining and more. 

And each chapter is headed by a beautiful illustration like the one below, made to look like a scene within a Christmas ball topped off with a ribbon and a sprig of evergreen.

I love this book and it's a wonderful addition to my Christmas cookbook collection!  Should you want one of your own, you can find Gooseberry Patch books at Gooseberry Patch, on Amazon and Thriftbooks, and often at Cracker Barrel and other country stores. 

Happy Christmas cooking and baking!

Monday, December 09, 2019

My "Christmas Hospitality" Pinterest board

Here's one of my Pinterest boards that might be a help during this festive, busy season: my board for Christmas hospitality.

I've been thinking about this because later this week, I'll be hosting a simple cookie swap for some of my friends from church.  This board has some great printables for a cookie exchange, including invitations.  It's way too late for that, but some of the other ones might be fun.  The last time I did a cookie swap, we didn't make it competitive at all, but this printable has a way to vote for most creative, best tasting, most festive, etc. We will see.  I sort of want to keep it relaxed.

This board also has a great post about hosting an ornament exchange party and several different ways that can be done.  My daughter and hubby out west have hosted a party like this a number of times and it sounds like a lot of fun.  I've thought for awhile about doing this.

And I seem to have pinned a great many ideas for hot cocoa bars.  Seems like it's something I really want to do!  Last year my daughter Carrie did one of these and left it up all winter. It was handy when the kids (or anyone) came in from sledding or other outdoor winter activities.  She has one all set up for this year, too.  Below is a photo of last year's hot cocoa bar.

I have a few recipes pinned also -- a cranberry lime party punch that looks so festive and refreshing,  a peppermint bark cheesecake,  a gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting, and more.  There's also a peppermint bark cheesecake dip into which one dips chocolate-covered pretzels!

Last but not least, I pinned a wonderful post from blogger Diane Miller concerning stress-free holiday entertaining.   The first point she makes is that we must always remember that hospitality is not about us.  This quote really hit home with me: "It’s about gathering people together to have fun, to develop friendships, to offer a place of safety, a place of peace, and to break bread together.   People come with all kinds of baggage.  Your job as a host is to think about your guests, their comfort, and most of all to listen, care, and offer true hospitality."  I loved this.  She said it so well.

Thinking about Christmas hospitality?  Head over to my Christmas hospitality board for some ideas!

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Vintage Christmas cards for kids

Since I've been going through lots of vintage cards from "the home place", I've become more and more aware of how special Christmas cards for kids were, back in the day.  Many readers know that I have had for some time a little collection of vintage cards.  A few of those were intended for children, but many were not.  The two pictured below may be the only ones in my collection that were specifically for kids.

Today it seems more usual that a Christmas card is sent to a whole family rather than separate, special cards being sent to a child.   But back in the 1950s and 1960s, it seems it was more common to send cards to kids.  Of course the postage was a lot less, too!  Here are some of the treasures I've found:
 A kitten in red boots brandishing a Christmas message.
 Sweet Christmas puppy in a red boot
 A cheerful snowman
 Santa going down the chimney
 This Cinderella Christmas booklet was a real charmer.
 Inside this card there is space for five dimes.
 White kitten in a Christmas package
 This little ballerina is just the sweetest!
 Cute kids with a friendly snowman
 A Santa on skates
 This little girl with a blue bird perched on her gloved hand is just adorable.
 And last but not least, a shouting boy skating with his puppy.

All of these cards have been listed in my Etsy shop, but many have already sold, and it's easy to see why.  These nostalgic images of children are just too cute!  (Edited to add: Some readers have asked for the link to my Etsy shop.  Here it is: A New Hampshire Attic.  Happy browsing, and please don't feel that you have to do any shopping.  Just enjoy the vintage goodness.)

Hope you've enjoyed this look at some real mid-century treasures!

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Homemade Italian sausage for recipes

Here's something I recently tried and really liked.  I've mentioned before that my hubby and I could pretty much eat soup all fall and winter long.  I have a huge collection of soup recipes and we could cheerfully eat soup for supper every night.  It's nice too that when we have our young friends over for Bible study and a meal, they also love soup and are always thrilled to see a pot of soup on the stove.

Some of our favorite soups call for bulk Italian sausage -- usually fairly easy to find, but in recent years I prefer chicken sausage or turkey sausage to pork or beef.  Poultry sausages can often be found in links -- delicious though expensive -- but it can be a challenge to find them in the bulk variety.

For awhile now I've been wanting to look for a seasoning recipe to make my own Italian bulk sausage using ground chicken or turkey.  If I had had any idea it was so easy, I would have done it years ago!

I adapted this recipe from one that I found at Tastes of Lizzy T.  Here's what I used to turn 1 pound of ground turkey into 1 pound of bulk Italian sausage:

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon instant minced onion
1/2 teaspoon instant minced garlic OR garlic powder to taste
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Place the salt, fennel seed and red pepper flakes in a custard cup.  Use a wooden spoon or similar implement to partially crush the fennel seed and the red pepper flakes into the salt.  They don't have to be completely crushed, just partially so, and you will get a nice aroma of fennel as you do.  Now add all of the remaining seasonings to the custard cup and stir to mix very well. 

Sprinkle all of the mixture over 1 pound of ground turkey or chicken in a bowl of appropriate size.  Mix the seasonings into the meat very well, using your hands.  Then crumble and brown the sausage as directed in your recipe.  (You will want to wash your hands very well following the mixing and crumbling steps.)

 Here are links to a couple of the soup recipes I mentioned.  Both are from Taste of Home,  and both have been recent hits with supper guests.

Pasta Sausage Soup is the soup pictured at the top of the post.

Hearty Butternut Squash Soup is pictured below.
 Of course, you could also multiply the seasoning ingredients to make a large batch of sausage seasoning to store in a jar for future use.  (If I figured right, you would then need 5 1/2 teaspoons of mix for every pound of sausage.)  A jar of this mix would also make a nice kitchen gift or a nifty addition to a gift basket for someone who enjoys cooking.

Hope this idea is helpful to someone in this busy season!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Christmas on the farm

A long time ago, I posted these childhood memories of mine over on my Christmas blog, but a search revealed that I have never posted them here.  As I've been working at listing vintage Christmas items in my Etsy shop, these memories have come flooding back.  So I've decided to post them here as well, adding in a few photos that I hadn't previously found.  Enjoy!


How privileged I was to be a child in the 1950s! Today Christmas has lost so much of its meaning and magic. We are desperately trying to get it back. Notice the catalogs full of such nostalgic products as Radio Flyer wagons and bubbling Christmas tree lights, if you don't believe it. I've hung on to many a faded glass ornament from those days, so I'm doing my bit for nostalgia, too. But my memories haven't all faded. Many of them are as clear and bright as they ever were.

We were fortunate to live just down the road from my grandmother's farmhouse, so I got to see her Christmas preparations before the big day. My grandmother loved holidays, and Christmas was her top favorite. She decorated the big farmhouse to the hilt! 

Me in front of the farmhouse in 1963
 Fluffy red honeycombed paper bells hung from ceilings; shiny red letters spelling out M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S were often strung across the fireplace mantel. 

The color photo above shows one of the honeycomb bells, a green one this time, displayed in my own home.  I thought a vintage-style paper chain would set it off perfectly.

But back to the farmhouse living room: there were birch logs in the fireplace and a crackling electric "fire". 
Colorful electric candoliers glowed in every window. A green ceramic tree with glowing colored lights, similar to the one below, lit up an upstairs hallway.  
photo from The Vermont Country Store
Around the house in different areas were taped the many Christmas cards my grandmother had received so far. Christmas candles abounded, especially the kind in shapes like an angel choir, Santa and Mrs. Claus, or a group of carolers gathered under a wax lamppost.   The photos just above and below are screenshots from The Vermont Country Store, where such items may still be purchased!  I could never really think about actually lighting one of these candles, though.

Photo from The Vermont Country Store
Photo from  The Vermont Country Store
Christmas music like White Christmas and Winter Wonderland stood ready on the piano. The sideboard in the back hallway held candy dishes filled with glistening ribbon candy and peach blossoms, chocolates, mixed nuts, and stuffed dates.

The photos I have of Gram's tree (above) show it set up in her living room, which was a much smaller room than the front room.  It must be that in my toddler years, when the family was still relatively small, the tree went in the living room.  But later, during the Christmases that I remember best, the family had grown to include 20 grandchildren, and the tree was placed in the much larger front room just beyond.

There, the Christmas tree would be set up at one end of the room. I liked nothing better than to go in and just look at all the gifts under that tree. It didn't even matter if they weren't all for me! The
wrappings were so beautiful, and each package seemed to be different. One gift might be wrapped in midnight-blue paper with a scene depicting Bethlehem and the manger, even the shepherds out in the fields.   Another gift might be papered with glittering Christmas ornaments and pine needles. A little boy's package might be wrapped in paper showing small cowboys and their horses. And the tags always matched the paper!  Gram's artistic eye wouldn't have settled for anything less!  It wasn't just that a snowman package carried a tag with a snowman on it. No, the snowman tag would exactly match the snowman paper!


 Of course, the contents of the packages were special also. We always knew they would contain something we really wanted ( a pre-holiday consultation with the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog saw to that), which had been thoughtfully picked out and then carefully wrapped, just for us.

I was very, very fortunate that in the early lean years of our marriage, Gram realized I could probably use some Christmas paper, ribbons, and tags -- and she passed her "leftovers" on to me. I still have some of the tags and ribbon!

Gram's Christmas tree was beautiful, too. All of my cousins recollect her tree as being really special. Shirley said it best: "I recall how in awe I always was of her tree in the living room -- so bright and warming." The ornaments were very special. Some of them were sparkly and white and looked as if they had been formed out of sugar. The shapes I remember for these "sugar" ornaments were bells and angels. The white plastic reindeer tied with red satin ribbons were also favorites of mine. 

But my best-loved ornaments were the faces of angels -- which, years before, my mother and some of her sisters had cut from paper, colored beautifully with crayons, and sprinkled with glitter.

One special memory of Christmas for me is the red corduroy vest
 that my Dad would always wear when we went to Gram's for Christmas dinner and the tree. He and my uncles would all be particularly jovial on that special day, joking with all of the kids and with one another. 

I had forgotten this, but it seems there was always a lot of joking about how much food my dad was able to eat. One year someone took a picture of him with the turkey directly in front of him, as if the whole thing was for him to eat!

My cousin Wayne remembers: "There were always a lot of grownups and oodles of kids around with a constant level of voices and laughter." Sometimes it seemed that there was more excitement in that
one day than in a week or a month of ordinary days. We would have the tree and presents at home in the morning and then go to Gram's for dinner and her tree in the afternoon. Often we cousins would bring along one or more of our new Christmas gifts to show the others -- dolls, trucks, games, or whatever.

Gram would be dressed to suit the holiday in a bright red dress or jumper, with plenty of sparkly holiday jewelry in the shape of holly or poinsettias. Her earrings and pins always matched her dress on any day,  but she pulled out all the stops when dressing up on Christmas day.

Christmas dinner was always a festive affair, with the tables carefully set for the younger children in the kitchen and the adults and older kids in the dining room. The smaller cousins always had special little Santa mugs to drink from. The dining room table would be set with Gram's set of ivy-trimmed white dishes. It seemed to me that food just looked and tasted better on those plates.

Equally impressive to me was the fact that all of the serving dishes matched! She would have a snowy white cloth on the table, and all the glassware and silver sparkled.

Often we would all start off with a juice glass full of tomato juice or V-8. I'm sure the meat we had for that meal varied; I seem to remember roast beef, turkey, or roast pork at different times. Somehow I remember the vegetables best: the fluffy mashed potatoes, the squash with lots of pepper; the green peas which I seldom wanted to take any of so there would be more room for other things. There was also a tossed green salad with Wish-Bone Italian dressing, always. This was a huge treat to me because we never had bottled dressing at home. Sometimes my mother would make Parker House rolls to contribute to the meal, or Aunt Dot would make her famous oatmeal rolls. It's funny, but I really don't remember at all what our Christmas desserts were. I do remember that we didn't eat dessert until after the present-opening in the front room.

After everyone was gathered and seated in the front room, Gram would have the cousins pass out the gifts. We would end up with everyone having a gift from Gram, and sometimes I think there were family gifts which the aunts and uncles had brought for their siblings' families.  And then there would be a huge pile of gifts next to Gram's chair. It would take forever for her to open them! But we didn't have dessert until she was finished with the task, unless she decided the rest of us needed dessert and took a break from opening her gifts.

As I mentioned earlier, the Christmas music was all out on the piano or in the bench and sometimes one of the aunts would play Christmas songs. When some of the cousins grew old enough to take piano lessons, there would often be "recitals" taking place in the front room as well. I think that
sometimes Christmas music would be playing on the record player in the corner. The songs I associate with Christmas at Gram's are "Silver Bells" and "Winter Wonderland."

I seem to remember ice cream for dessert, and usually there was some of Grammie Wallace's date cake around. This dark-colored loaf cake, frosted on top with a thick white frosting and trimmed with walnut halves, was a tradition in Gram's family, but I never liked it very much. 

 I think Gram may have baked a sheet cake of some sort as well -- she was a big fan of cake mixes and liked the unusual flavors such as butter pecan or cherry chip. If we had cake, I imagine we also had ice cream.  Aunt Dot usually brought some of her famous date balls, which early on earned the nickname "Dot's Oddballs". (I am not sure if it was my dad or Dot's husband Howard who gave them this name. They shared the same quirky sense of humor, so it could have been either one of them.) 

But my major "sweet" memories of Christmas were the candy dishes on the sideboard -- especially the chocolates and the thin, fragile, bright-colored ribbon candy.  

Screenshot photo from The Vermont Country Store
And nonpareils -- there were always nonpareils, which I believe had been my grandfather's favorite.
Screenshot from The Vermont Country Store
As wonderful as Christmases on the farm were, you can easily imagine how cruelly disappointed we kids were whenever we had to miss one. With four kids in the family, there were the inevitable times when one or more of us was sick. If it was only one or two of us, one parent would stay home with the invalid(s) while the other parent and siblings joined the fun at the farm. But mostly I remember the times when all of us had to stay home so we wouldn't infect the other cousins with whatever we had. How sad we felt to watch the arriving cars of the fortunate relatives who were not sick!

The farm of my childhood Christmases
What wonderful memories these are!  I am truly blessed and privileged to have such precious memories.  In making memory books to pass on to my children and grandchildren, I hope to keep these wonderful memories alive.