December 9, 2013

Some sparkle for a holiday look…it’s all about atmosphere…how do you capture the essence of the Christmas season…festive decorations for outside and a classic touch inside your home, a great traditional meal, seasonal fragrances, and more…a few shiny objects, candlesticks and white cyclamen in front of a mirror propped on the mantel.

Little touches fill your home with Christmas magic…if you do not  have  a fireplace, create your seasonal display on a sideboard, buffet or other large piece of furniture with a flat surface for arranging holiday collections…

…nice provencal pate jars filled with evergreenery, candlesticks, a hand-carved bird, some flowers, all reflected in a lovely gold leaf mirror propped on the cupboard…

I have a passion for Christmas traditions…classic decorations, delectable confections, gingerbread men, jams & preserves, fresh-baked breads, pine garlands with red plaid bows, mulled spice wine, Christmas pudding, candles, rich chocolate fudge, molasses cookies, oh…and bacon roll-ups!

Growing up…Every year on the day after Thanksgiving we spent the entire day into late evening cooking and baking for Christmas…there were no big sale days and Christmas decorating didn’t start until December in those days. We made fruitcake…the really good, moist nut-filled kind that we soaked in bourbon and wrapped  in cheesecloth, rum and bourbon balls , huge pans of chocolate fudge, which we packed into old tins and stored away till Christmas…and finally, we baked gingerbread men for decorating the tree.  I think back now to that kitchen with the huge iron cook stove…it provided such warmth during the winter, a place to gather and I can still smell all the scents of  vanilla, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, bread from the oven…and oh, goodness…time for me to get busy in my kitchen…so much  to make and do…

But first, a cup of hot tea and a few minutes of planning what needs to be done…I did get all the leaves raked and scooped into the leaf compost pile yesterday so that’s done for the moment. I hung some greens collected from the woods on the mailbox post and added a big red bow…I usually make lavender hearts to hang on the tree for family and friends, make a wreath for the front porch using my dried rose buds, the steamed puddings I will make the week before Christmas and have them ready with lemon sauce to deliver to neighbors…make list of what I need from the market…

The hearts shown are like some I made years ago, recently I have made them using scraps of fabric from old quilts and trimmed them with buttons and antique earring pieces…I always embroider the date on the heart and stuff them with lavender buds into the cotton and feather fill.                                   photo(99)

     The wreath is so simple…use rosemary sprigs and evergreen foliage wired to a grapevine wreath form I made from trimming the vines last spring…add rosebuds and maybe some berries…pine cones also make good “rose” like flowers when trimmed…

Looking for a way to share old black and white photos of the generations of families, I found old manilla folder like shipping tags, glued copies of found photos on the tags, decorated them with trimmings and buttons and tiny bells and other festive fringes and then used them to hang on the tree! Friends and family enjoyed seeing long ago forgotten photos of family members!

Bring old-fashioned charm to wrapping packages…use vintage Christmas cards, often found at antique shops or flea markets, to decorate brown or other butcher-type wrapping paper…add some ribbons for a more decorative touches. For many years this was my favorite way to wrap gifts, sometimes I used antique cards, old photos, green Nutscene twine or just red plaid ribbon on brown paper. One year, when my girls were very young…I used the “funny papers” from Sunday paper to wrap gifts, they loved it and soon the funnies became a tradition…I  had to find ways to save money by making  gifts…but, actually, all those hours spent on creative ways of wrapping and making gifts was much more meaningful…

Years ago, Christmas Eve morning…EARLY…often found us in the old Packard driving south to North Carolina and the family farms to spend Christmas…grandmother lived outside of town in an old house with clapboard siding painted white. Only an hour and a half ride, I wondered why it took so long to get there and when we finally pulled in the long dirt driveway my brother and I ran straight to the back porch where the screen door flew open and there she was…soft white hair, twinkling blue eyes, smiling and wiping her hands on her almost white apron. There were warm cookies and fresh milk on the table for us to gobble up before rushing back outside to find Daddy-snip, as our grandfather was called, because he always found time to let us ride on [or sometimes drive] the rugged old FORD tractor. He reminded us that chores were waiting, after our rides, so we took a basket to the chicken house and collected eggs and checked on the cows. Later, if the weather was good, he and our Dad would take my brother and me hunting in the woods near the barns…there were turkeys and deer to possibly add to the Christmas Dinner.

After supper, and a final trip to the outhouse for the night, we quickly jumped into bed. Shivering in the cold, we waited, giggling and excited for Christmas morning to happen, while Mother and her Mother piled heavy old quilts on top of us…there was no heat except for the ancient wood stove in the front room…eventually we warmed and fell asleep…me hoping I would NOT have to get up during the night to use the enamel-ware pot kept under the iron bed for those “emergencies” that invariably happened. Waking up…rooster crowing, daylight creeping through the window, the smell of bacon sizzling and biscuits fresh from the oven, we rushed to the kitchen…backsides quickly turned to the iron stove for warmth. Grandmother had our coffee-milk ready and we sat down to eat…thoughts of Santa and gifts took a backseat to her biscuits! Wel-l-l-l, for a few minutes anyway!

                                                                                                                    We loved ham for Christmas dinner…the pigs were raised on the farm…we got to help feed and take care of the pens as well as be a part of the yearly fall pig harvest and ham making… Everything we needed was there…family, food, adventure…love!

Please visit again next week for more about Christmas traditions and memories…


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