Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve: A Sushi Tradition

Hello! We always like a light snack on New Year's Eve as we relax at home while waiting for the ball to drop at Times Square. For our snack in 2003 I bought a packaged tray of sushi from a local grocery store that had recently started making their own. 

It was tasty, but not exactly inexpensive given the amount I had to buy to satisfy the three of us. So I figured I could save money by making my own. I copied some pages entitled "Basic Sushi" out of a library  book (don't recall which book now)and bought a few things I didn't already have but would need for our sushi - namely sushi rice, nori sheets, wasabi paste and a bamboo rolling mat. 

All these items were found in the international foods aisle of our local Meijer store, but I imagine that those living in an area with a significant Japanese population would have access to more brands. Nevertheless, what was available to me seems to work fine.

I got to work making our sushi after lunch today and before long I had my platterful:

Perhaps not the picture of perfection, but still pretty good when you consider that I only make this once a year! Besides the sushi rice and the wasabi paste, these rolls are filled with combinations of cooked shrimp, cucumber and avocado. They will be served with additional wasabi paste and with soy sauce. (In the past I've used the wasabi paste that comes in a tube, but earlier this year I bought wasabi powder at the Spice House in Milwaukee. The powder is mixed with water and I liked the idea of being able to prepare it as needed).

Homemade sushi is something we look forward to every year, and of course I look forward to saving money by making it myself!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some Gifts of the Season

Hello! Sometimes simple gifts seem the best. For example, my husband and I do a "house gift" instead of presents for each other, so our stocking exchange takes on an element of fun and excitement. Some of the goodies that loaded up our stockings this year were a homemade brownie mix, jewelry, books, and enough candy to make the folks at Hershey's quite happy. 

We also gave ornaments to each other:

My husband gave me two glass ornaments,one of which was this royal blue (one of my favorite colors) with a bell design. The other is identical in shape but is red with an round ornament design embedded in the glass. These match the three he put in my stocking last year. I don't know where he purchased these, as he likes to keep his finds secret - perhaps at one of the several art galleries in our downtown. 

But there's no mistaking where the ornament I put in his stocking came from :

During our visit to Atlanta in March, we walked through an attractive neighborhood on our way to the Atlanta Botanic Gardens. I scooped up this large pine cone, which had fallen onto the sidewalk, and brought it back home with me. A little glue, glitter, a tag and a gold cord hanger and voila - a memory of our trip. This pine cone ornament joined several that were already on our Christmas tree, all from places we have visited over the years. 

Our stockings also gave us an opportunity to add to our collection of small Nativity scenes:

From Peru; my husband selected it. 

I'm not sure where this one was made, but I thought the glasswork was pretty - especially when the sun shines through it, which wasn't happening when I took the photo. 

Our daughter got in the spirit of stocking stuffers as well:
She'd gone on a class trip to Gettysburg and other historic points east in May and had brought us back some simple but fun souvenirs of her travels - pencils from various museum gift shops. What we didn't know that was that she'd also bought us ornaments in the shape of small snowman snow globes (my husband's says "Dad", of course)and waited until Christmastime to sneak them into our stockings. 

She bought these at a gift shop in Gettysburg, she told us. What snowmen snowglobe ornaments have to do with Gettysburg I'm not sure, but I was touched by her thoughtfulness and tickled by her scheming ahead like that!

It's also been her custom over the last several years to make us each our own calendar as a Christmas present, and here's what my gift was this year:

Each page has a photo that corresponds to the month in which that photo was taken, so I imagine that it took her some time to find an appropriate photo for each month! I always use her calendars to keep track of my workouts - I put up a sticker for each day that I've done some exercise and write what workout I'd done and for what duration. It's always a good feeling to look at the calendar and see the number of stickers on it - yes, most months have stickers almost every day (I do count activities like leaf raking and snowshoveling, not just formal workouts). 

So in this sense, this is one of the most important and useful gifts I receive all year! And of course, it's all the better since it was lovingly made by our daughter. 

I hope that you received some special gifts from your loved ones as well this holiday season.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holidays - Happy Holidays To Everyone!

Seen during a recent visit to East Lansing, MI:

Shop window at Mackerel Sky - love the sentiment of the word "peace" along with all those peace cranes draped near it. Awesome!

And as I end my month of daily blogging about the holidays, I wish for you and yours a wonderful, safe, and loving holiday season. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all! 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holidays - A Year Ago Today

Hello! No photos with this post, just memories of what happened a year ago today. For anyone reading this who is not a relative or friend, what happened a year ago is that my mom died. Yes, on Christmas Eve. 

The timing wasn't exactly a surprise, for she had been at a residential hospice facility since that October, following a rather sudden and shocking diagnosis in late September of a type of brain cancer that does not respond well to surgery or other treatments. 

My mom had always seemed rather a tough cookie, having survived a car accident, heart attack and breast cancer in recent years (the brain cancer was not related to the breast cancer, we were told). She had turned 83 the month before her diagnosis, but still had seemed to be in reasonably good shape. 

For example, she had driven across the state, 2 1/2 hours each way, to visit us in July, and while there did a fair amount of walking one night, explored two antique malls with me, plus dinners out, a visit to a local beach and other activities. In short, it seemed like a normal visit. As she and my dad drove away, I wondered, as always, if it had been the last visit the two of them would make. After all, at that time my dad was 88 and my mom had been discussing his mental and physical decline for years already. 

So needless to say her diagnosis turned life as I knew it upside down. We kids did what we could to make her stay at the hospice facility as pleasant as we could and of course tried to support our dad as well. It was very sad to see her mental and physical condition decline, but there was nothing that could be really be done to reverse what had happened. Very early on in her diagnosis, I had the sudden awareness that this is how it was supposed to be, as if somehow I had known this all along. It didn't mean that I was happy that she had gotten this form of brain cancer, but I could accept her diagnosis rather than flail along with the what-if's or why-did-this-happen sort of thinking. 

Still, there's no denying that watching a loved one die, especially right around the holiday, was very tough. All around me last year, people were wishing me Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I wanted to scream at them at times! One well-meaning person, who was kept informed of my mom's diagnosis and decline, even wrote a cheery "have fun" in her Christmas card. I forgave her for her choice of words since her parents are both still alive, so she didn't know how it was for me, and I knew she meant well. But by writing that she came across as forgetting, or not caring about,  what I was going through. 

However, what was worse was the non-support of someone whom I've given a good deal of  support and encouragement in the many years I've known her - including when her own parents died. I was very disappointed, as it would have taken very little time on her part to drop a line or send a quick email. Yet she never did. Too busy, I guess. 

(I should add that I mention these two incidents not to point fingers at anyone, but rather as an instructive lesson of what not to do if anyone reading this wonders what to do or say under similar circumstances. And I am sure that I have made some clumsy etiquette mistakes myself.)  

On the other hand, I was greatly touched by the thoughtfulness of a friend who invited me to come to her church to pick out a prayer shawl to take to my mom. (A group of women at her church make these as a way to provide comfort for those in need). I did as my friend suggested and selected a pretty green shawl from the assortment at the church office. My mom was very pleased by the shawl and used it often. After her death my dad donated it to the hospice facility, so it continues to give comfort to those in need. I am grateful for my friend's gesture and am also grateful to the unknown woman who crafted the shawl. It really meant a lot to me!

As Mom's condition decline further last December, there was uncertainty within the family over what to do about Christmas Eve. My dad had already decided that he wanted to take part in the Christmas Day buffet offered to the hospice patients and their families (the facility had offered the same for Thanksgiving and so that's where my family gathered on that holiday). Christmas Eve had been one of my mom's biggest nights of the entire year, for it was on that night that she hosted her large French-Canadian family for their traditional meat pie. The gathering had dwindled in recent years due to relatives having moved away or died, but it was still a dinner that my mom always hosted. 

My husband, my daughter and myself had gone to see my mom a few days prior to Christmas Eve, and were going to be present at the buffet dinner at the facility on Christmas Day. So, as usual, we headed off to the Christmas Eve Family Mass, which at our church begins at 5:00. 

Around 5:56, the part of Mass during which prayer intentions are offered began. As the lector read the intention for those who are dying, I felt a jolt inside of me. 

I came home after church to a message from one of my sisters that Mom had died - right around the time that that prayer for the dying had been read. What timing! 

I went to bed that night with a very heavy heart since I was not at her bedside when she died. (she'd gone very fast at the end, so I wasn't the only one who hadn't made it, but still felt sad about this). As I lay in bed crying, I suddenly felt as if my hair was being stroked - yet at that time I was the only one in the bedroom. Could it have been my mom, trying to comfort me from beyond? I'd like to think so. 

Now, at first it seemed quite ironic that my mom would die on Christmas Eve, since I recall that in the past she often expressed sympathy for others who had to deal with death or other sorrows during the holidays. When the father of a sister-in-law died a few days before Christmas, Mom commented that now the family would always associate Christmastime with his death. And whenever she heard the fire siren go off on Christmas Eve, she was certain that someone's house was burning down due to a Christmas tree fire and would express sorrow about this. 

So, here she went and died on Christmas Eve - the very thing she would have thought so unfortunate if it had happened to another family! Rather ironic - but in retrospect, it's quite fitting that she died right around the time that she and her family would have all been sitting down around the dining room table to eat that meat pie. In that sense, it's a sort of memorial to her and the kind of person she was - devoted to family, having get-togethers with family and friends, and keeping the spirit of Christmas alive for those whom she loved. 

I endeavored to keep her spirit alive this Christmas by making ornaments out of her fabrics for my siblings and their kids. We can never take her place, of course, but we can endeavor as she did to keep the spirit of Christmas alive - for ourselves and for others. Although I miss her very much, I told our daughter earlier today that Grandma would want us to be happy today. 

Merry Christmas, Mom - I will never like that meat pie, but I will always remember you on Christmas Eve - and on every other day of the year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holidays - Stedry Vecer: Slovak Christmas Eve

I am not Slovak but enjoyed learning the customs of my husband's Slovak-American family, and these customs seemed the most pronounced on Christmas Eve and on Easter. I'd already discussed their Easter meal HEREand with Christmas Eve rapidly approaching it's time to highlight the Slovak traditions that my in-laws celebrated on that night.

My mother-in-law gave me this cookbook many years ago:

My edition was published in 1980 and was the 21st printing of this cookbook. It comes from the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association, a fraternal organization, and is still available. It's now in its 26th printing (the cookbook was originally produced to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the FCSLA). 

On page 8 of my cookbook is the following menu:

Stedry Vecer means "Bountiful Evening" in Slovak and it's easy to see why, with such a listing of foods involved. No, my mother-in-law did not serve all those foods, but she did always serve "fish", which in their case meant delectable perch from nearby Lake Michigan. She served mushroom soup and there were usually nut and poppyseed rolls as well. 

The whole family enjoyed the distribution of oplatky, which are dry and wafer-like. They don't have much taste, but with honey they seem more edible. It was customary for everyone to break pieces off their oplatky to pass around to the others present at the meal.

My mother-in-law didn't make bobalky but told me that her mother did. I've never tried it but it doesn't seem to me like I'm missing much. The recipe within this cookbook describes how to make it: To begin, make one pound of a rich bread dough and cut it into small pieces; bake until lightly browned. Then, for no apparent reason (to me, I stress) - pour boiling water over these baked bread pieces, then add a mixture of cooked ground poppyseed, milk and sugar and mix all together. So basically it sounds like you end up with a mush of some sort. I'd just make the bread in a loaf and stop there! 

My mother-in-law did serve her famous three-bean salad, so she supplied the "beans" listed on the above page, but I don't recall things like dried fruits and mixed nuts being present. That didn't matter to me, as the fish and the nut and poppyseed rolls were the stars of the show as far as I was concerned. 

My mother-in-law also gave me the following years ago:

I don't know where she got it from, but it was published by the Slovak Institute and The Friends of Good Books. My edition was published in 1978. 

This volume describes many customs of the Christmas season in Slovakia, beginning with the Feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) and ending with the Feast of Epiphany (Jan. 6th.) I have no idea how many of the customs are still followed in Slovakia, but they were fun to read about. In regards to Stedry Vecer, there appeared to be a number of fortune-telling rituals that occurred on this night.

I don't recall my in-laws and their friends performing fortune-telling customs, but I know that other rituals were followed: some of my in-laws' friends put straw under their table on that night to remember the birth of Christ in a manger. Some would eat garlic - for good health, I think. My mother-in-law did neither, but she did have the family "wash" (ie, rub) their hands with a silver dollar for prosperity. 

The Slovak Christmas book also contains a number of traditional carols with Slovak and English words included. My husband didn't learn all the carols, but his church sang the following:

Between attending their Midnight Masses a few times and having heard my husband and his siblings sing it over the years, even I can sing this carol - or at least try to! Slovak is a tongue-twisting sort of language to me. 

Well, at this point in time my husband's parents are dead and the church from which their Slovak Christmas carols used to ring out every year closed before they had even died. However, I do like to carry on the Stedry Vecer custom in some fashion. We haven't always been able to get oplatky, but I picked up lake perch today for tomorrow's dinner - and bought mushrooms to make my husband mushroom soup. I'd be happy to make nut and poppyseed rolls - but he doesn't like them, so I don't. We'll just have Christmas cookies for dessert. 

And before you know it, not too long after eating our Stedry Vecer meal it'll be time to say "Vesele Vianoce" - that's Slovak for "Merry Christmas"!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holidays - Tinsel Tree

Hello! Yes, I have another decorated Christmas tree to show off. This one is only three feet tall, perfect for a tabletop or, as I'll show below, a shelf:

Behold my tinsel tree! I paid $2.00 for it at Goodwill, but the label on the bottom indicated that it had originally come from Target. The tree skirt was a 25c purchase at a church rummage sale last month. 

Not only is this a thrifty tree, but it's relatively well color-coordinated too - everything is red, white and green. I think that these colors look effective against the silver tree.

Many of the ornaments were handmade, such as this pair of crocheted mittens:

I think this was my most expensive ornament purchase for this tree. I balked a bit at paying one whole dollar for this, but decided that the handcrafted effort deserved a new home (mine, of course!)

I have several stocking ornaments that had been knitted or crocheted, but this is the only one that had been embellished with embroidered flowers. 25c at a church rummage sale. 

Guess it wasn't enough to give this reindeer a red nose - all of him is red! Cute anyway! Thrift store, 25c.

Rather odd eyes on this reindeer, but for a quarter at a thrift store, I wasn't going to be fussy.

This charmer in the form of a small doll was free at a store that sells found items for reuse in arts and crafts projects. The guy at the counter tossed this doll in for free with the other objects I was buying. It's likely been around awhile, but I'm not sure how old it is. 

We often have a white Christmas in these parts, hence the snowmen on the tree:

Both were 25c apiece at a thrift store. Very little snow has fallen thus far, so we may have to wait awhile yet for real snowmen to appear. I am not complaining - it seems strange to have no snow on the ground, but I don't miss it.

But snow or no snow, presents usually make their appearance under a Christmas tree:

And it's true for my tinsel tree as well!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holidays - Homemade Crescent Rolls

Hello! By now you might have seen the commercial in which two adult brothers fight over the lone remaining Pillsbury crescent roll in the bread basket. Then their mom comes to the rescue with the cheery announcement that she has more rolls.

Well, sorry, Pillsbury, but last night I made these:

(actually, I made 40 rolls total). Once cooled, they went into the freezer and will be thawed out on Christmas Day to be served with the holiday dinner. If I was hosting the dinner myself instead of traveling across the state to attend it, I'd make the rolls the day of. 

The recipe is called Potato Refrigerator Dough and it's easy to find on the Internet - for example, here. This isn't the link I'd originally found, but I'm supplying this one because the write-up and photography are good. HOWEVER - I must add that her recipe calls for two packages of yeast, whereas the recipe I use calls for only one packet of yeast. A quick search of the Internet seems to show that most versions of this recipe do indicate only one package of yeast. I've never had trouble with my rolls not rising with using one package. 

There are many good things about this recipe - it's easy to mix up, keeps up to five days, and makes enough dough that you can do a lot with it. For example, my crescent rolls: after dividing the dough into quarters, I used two of the quarters - plus 1/2 of the third quarter (I know, that sounds weird as written, but I think you know what I mean)to make the rolls. This leaves me with enough dough left to make something else, though I'm not sure yet. I'm leaning toward trying some sort of coffeecake for Christmas Day breakfast, but we'll see. I have a few days to make up my mind. 

I should add that, like me, the woman whose link I've supplied got the recipe idea from a  Tightwad Gazette book. The author of that book attributed the recipe to an old Betty Crocker cookbook.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holidays - Vintage Christmas Aprons

Hello! Vintage aprons are a popular collectible and I'm pleased to show off my small group of vintage aprons with a Christmas theme. All are in fine shape other than very minor staining on a couple of them. Either they were lightly used (or not at all) - or else the cooks were tidier than I am! 

First up is:

This jolly Santa apron was 25c at a thrift store. Can't have too many Santas!

I was delighted to find the above at a church rummage sale for 50c.

Close-up of the kittens:

Adorable! The only thing that would have made this apron even better is if the kittens had been calico like our cat Beauty, but I'm still happy with those gray kittens.

The next apron is different in that it's obviously dressier - it was sewn out of a sheer material and the ornaments are lavished with gold trims. I suspect that this apron was meant for the hostess to wear during her party, not while preparing the party menu.

And here's a close-up of the ornaments:

I know from experience that narrow rickracks and cords can be a pain to sew on, but whoever made this did a fine job. Beads and sequins were also added for accents. 

My mom bought this apron for me while visiting an antique mall in our area one year. She paid four dollars for it. I was most appreciative!

The remaining three aprons were all purchased at a church rummage sale in Douglas, WY in 2009 and I was charged 25c apiece. They had all been immaculately starched, which wasn't true of the other aprons. 

Candy canes and Christmas trees - what a sweet print!

Santa and black plaid. Not crazy about this one as much, for I didn't think there was enough black in the Santa panel to warrant the plaid. However, I took a close-up of the Santa so that you can decide for yourself:

The last apron is my favorite of these three:

These panels are cute enough that I thought each deserved its own close-up.

Jolly Santa.

Can't you just hear these bells ringing in the New Year?

Youngsters praying before bedtime in their red flannels.

A nice reminder of the season. Note the older cars parked in front of the church - from the 40's or 50's, my husband said. Don't know if this apron is that old, but at least some of the fabric used to make it is!

Do I use these aprons? No, for as I commented above, I'm a messy baker. Instead, they hang up in my kitchen to cheer me up while I'm busy churning out holiday cookies and breads!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Holidays - A Scandinavian Scene

Hello! As far as I know, I don't have a drop of blood from any Scandinavian country in me, but that hasn't stopped me from assembling the following scene on a kitchen windowsill:

Charming figures, are they not? All of them came from thrift stores, with the majority purchased as a $3.00 bagful earlier this year. All but the two small figures on either side of the round basket-like container are from Sweden. Most were dated on the bottom - either a stamped-on year from the company or else a hand-written date. Dates range from 1967-1992.

Time for some close-ups:

The figure with the green sled loaded with logs has the label Bo-Strom 1972 on the bottom. A brief check on eBay suggests that it has collectible value. The small Santa-like figure is from the Danish company Holline. The hand-decorated "God Jul" ornament was purchased at a church rummage sale last month for 25c. 

The basket-like container, which holds a skier and some skis, was $1.00 at a thrift store two years ago. It has the label of the company, Butticki, on the bottom. It's probably also considered a collectible but I don't know what year it had been made. The little troll-like figure next to it is from Finland. 

This little grouping rounds out the windowsill scene. 

As an aside, that $3.00 thrift store bag also included three figures from Japan, three labeled Steinbach (Germany) and two figures whose country of origin in unknown.They were all made in a style similar to the Scandinavian items shown above. 

Edit: upon close inspection, one of the three Japanese figures is actually labeled Goula Spain. (it looks quite similar to the Japanese two, hence the assumption that it was also made there). Goula appears to be collectible as well.

Now, I have to be honest - some of the figures in this bag had broken arms, a ski missing or whatever. In some cases, I was able to re-glue a broken part, but other figures will remain in a less-than-perfect state. For something that was purchased at thrift store prices, that's okay by me!

God Jul everyone!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holidays - Christmas Books (crafting variety)

Hello! Today I went through my shelf of Christmas craft books - I probably have more than I can ever use, but they're fun to look at and I've even made some of the projects - how about that. :)

Here's a small pile representative of what I own. All but one from this stack were thrifted, so by and large they are inexpensive inspiration!

From bottom to top, a bit more about each book: (the dates represent when the book was published)

At Home For Christmas, Carol Endler Sterbenz. Projects range from simple to complicated, but I particularly liked the beaded ornaments. 1998. 

Christmas With Victoria 2002 - Beautifully photographed and I've earmarked several projects I'd like to try. Recipes for food gifts and menus as well.(of course you know when it came out!)

Making Old-Fashioned Santas, Candie Frankel and Beverly Karcher. The projects are modern-day adaptations of Victorian-style Santas. Years ago I made the Santa on a Swing Ornament for my siblings, plus one for myself as seen in this post. A little fussy to make but they turned out pretty well. 1994.

Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg's Folk Art Collection - a wide variety of ornaments loaded with old-fashioned charm. 1976.

Folk Art Christmas Ornaments, Maxine Kenny. Similar in scope to the above book but in this case the ornaments are from folk art traditions the world over as well as from different time periods of US history. 1985.

Christmas With Mary Englebreit - Here Comes Santa Claus - a very colorful book in the spirit of the late, great Mary Englebreit Home magazine. I was thrilled to find this at a thrift store a couple of years ago. Crammed with crafts, gift ideas, decor and recipes. 2002.

Home For The Holidays - Hallmark - a very classy, beautifully photographed book that makes me want to try every project! Recipes too. 2006.

Christmas Book 13 - Gooseberry Patch - I'm a sucker for the Gooseberry Patch Christmas books, which, depending on the format, are either mostly recipes, or else have a mixture of crafts, decorating ideas and recipes. This particular book is in the latter category. It's the only new book of the bunch in my photo, but at least I bought it discounted at Sam's Club. Lively photography and text and again, I want to try a project from every page! 2011.

Handmade Christmas - Country Living - some country-style crafts look pretty dated now, but even though this book is over ten years old much of it still looks relatively fresh. For example, the wool-scrap garland, made with pieces of felted wool sweaters, would fit in fine today. 1999.

The McCalls' Book Of Christmas - this was published in the 1970's but has a number of crafts that could easily be updated  - or even made as directed and still look good. 1975.

From looking through these books while writing up this post, I had half a mind to try some of the projects as last-minute gifts - but probably should focus instead on the holiday baking I still have left to do. Maybe next year...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holidays - The Christmas Tree Picnic Tradition

Hello! Don't think I'll be able to blog tomorrow, so I'm doing an extra one today instead. 

As shown earlier in the week, we got our Christmas tree over the weekend. As soon as it was decorated our daughter asked if we were going to have our Christmas tree picnic, and of course I answered yes. This little tradition was begun before she was even born, so she's grown up with it. 

I don't even remember anymore where I came up with the idea - probably read about it in some women's magazine. Basically it means sitting on the floor around the Christmas tree to eat a meal there. It probably had been suggested as a fun activity to do with kids, but even though we were childless at the time, I made my husband do it. (He isn't crazy about sitting down on the floor to eat, but he goes along with the plan). 

We always use these:

This is a set of placemats and napkins that my mom had sewn for us for our first Christmas after getting married. 

The dinner may vary but it's always something that's easy to serve and eat. So yesterday for our "picnic" we had pizza. 

We have a tradition for the Christmas tree picnic dessert as well:

I always make sure I have a batch of Russian Teacakes on hand for the picnic. Why these? For one thing, the recipe states that they keep well and so can be made weeks ahead of the holiday season. They're quick to make. And all three of us like these equally well, which is rare for our varied food tastes!

I got the ceramic Christmas tree serving tray after my mother-in-law died; it had been in her things. The back of the tray denotes that it is a hand-painted item from Italy. I seem to recall that my sister-in-law told me that her mom had won it in a raffle at the church's holiday bazaar.

And that's the story of our Christmas tree picnic tradition! I hope that you and yours have some special holiday traditions of your own as well.


Holidays - Random Selection of Vintage Decor

Hello! Today I want to show off a random collection of vintage Christmas items. All but one were purchased on the cheap at thrift stores or at a rummage/garage sale. One item was purchased at an antiques mall. 

Let's get on with the show (and tell!):

The page above is from Childrens' Party Bookwhich was put out by  A. E. Staley Mfg. Co, Decatur, IL in 1935. Judging by the recipes in the back of this booklet, the company produced Golden Table Syrup, Crystal White Syrup and Cream Corn Starch (those syrups, I assume, had corn syrup in them). 

Here's the page opposite the one previously shown:

Purchased the booklet for 50c at a garage sale in Williamsport, PA four years ago. It's currently listed on eBay for between $9.95-$24.97. Both listings mention only slight wear -which is the condition of mine.

As an historical aside, when I showed my husband this find he commented that Staley had once owned a professional football team by the name of the Decatur Staleys. (Gee, I wonder how they ever came up with that name?)This team later morphed into the Chicago Bears. 

Next up is this:

I purchased this small metal tray for 25c at a garage sale. There's some advertising on the back for Die-Draulic, Inc. of Grand Rapids, MICH. In case you didn't know what the company supplied, why, it's "Simplified Hydraulic Die Pad Pressure". 

Anyway, I liked the vintage-style vibe.The tray could date from the 1950's.

Here's another tray of sorts:

I purchased this the other day at a thrift store for 25c. By its size and shape, I'm guessing it was an ash tray. On the back it says Houze Glass Corporation, Point Marion PA. Not sure of its age, but I liked that it looks vintage. From doing a bit of research on the Internet, I learned that Houze was in business from 1902-2004. 

This was one of my favorite finds from last year:

Purchased for 25c at a thrift store. Not sure of its age but the graphics suggest possibly the 1940's. Manufactured by the Metal Goods Corporation, St. Louis, U.S.A. The box had either come loose or had been opened at the bottom - it's been taped shut. The box is still about 1/3 full of mica snow flakes. It boggles my mind at the thought of someone having kept the box around all this time, but I'm glad they did! 

The lone antique mall purchase was this:

I paid $6.00 for this at an antiques mall in St. John, MI. It's normally hung up on our side door. I bought this because it reminded me of a very similar item:

Ever since I can remember, the above has hung up by the fireplace at my parents' home. My mom told me it had been her mother's. It's not in the best of shape anymore; for one thing, the bells are attached with paper clips, whereas mine are affixed with small metal rings. But then again, perhaps my Noel hanging was never subjected to kids like me ringing the bells on my mom's Noel every time they walked by it. 

So as you can see, a random selection, but there's nothing random about the fun of finding and displaying these blasts from Christmases past.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holidays - Christmas Books (non-crafting variety)

Hello! You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, the one photo I have today proves that a picture is worth more than a thousand words!

Above I have a pile of Christmas-themed books. These are all of the non-crafting variety (I have many of the crafting variety!), meaning that they're all related to decor, history or customs. 

From the bottom of the pile to the top:

Christmas in America - this must have been a popular book when it came out in 1988, for I've seen several copies of it showing up at thrift stores in the last year or two, selling for between $5.00-$15.00. I won't sell my copy, for I still enjoy leafing through the variety of photos therein. Purchased new at a store in Stevens Point, WI.

O Christmas Tree - purchased new in 1989 at Water Tower Place, Chicago, IL. Good example of 80's excess - lots of swank trees shown, but also some unusual and clever ones as well. Definitely not a Norman Rockwell view of Christmas trees, but still fun to look at. 

The Christmases We Used To Know - this is a compilation of stories sent in by the readers of Reminisce magazine. It was published in 1996 but I got it at a thrift store a couple of years ago for a dollar. I love all the stories and photos of, well, the Christmases folks had known in decades past. I never pass up a compilation from the series this magazine has put out over the years - they're usually a dollar at thrift stores but the information and entertainment I've gotten from them has been priceless!

Recreating Yuletides Past - from the Winterthur bookstore. Winterthur is a glorious house museum near Wilmington, DE and was originally a home for the DuPont family. It has absolutely wonderful interiors, top-notch antiques and beautiful gardens. We used to live about an hour north of Winterthur, so we went there often.

The subtitle of this volume is "Celebrations of Yuletide in America before 1860". The annual Yuletide tour, on which the book is based, depicts various customs as followed by the original colonies and the young United States of America. We attended the Yuletide tour several times and really enjoyed it. 

Merry Christmas America - A Front Yard View Of The Holidays - purchased several years ago at the late, great Afterwords, a remaindered bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI. I love this book! It was produced by a photographer who'd traveled all around the country to take pictures of outdoor Christmas displays. As one might expect, there are many photos of expensive homes decked out with thousands of lights, but I find myself drawn to the much humbler homes that were decorated with much more modest displays. I find these expressions of holiday spirit to be much more charming than the lavish spectacles. 

Christmas In The Midwest - Purchased earlier this year at the city library's used book sale; chosen for historical interest and the book's focus on ethnic customs from the immigrants who'd settled in the Midwest. As a bonus, it includes dozens of holiday cookie recipes from these ethnic groups.

Christmas Songs Made In America - also purchased at the Winterthur bookstore. Lyrics and the stories behind Christmas songs written by Americans. I always enjoy hearing the stories behind how songs came to be, so I knew I wanted this book when I spied it. Also lists the various artists who have recorded the songs (at least as of 1999, when this book was published) and when they charted. 

American Country Christmas - purchased at the library used sale cited above. A slim volume that's a bit dated now, for it was published in 1989 and the country look is much different now (currently lighter in color and feel.) Still has some sweet photos and so was worth the fifty cents that I paid for it. 

Well, that's all for now - man can't live by bread alone, it's said - but it's now lunchtime!