Happy New Year

"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth."  -  Ps. 34:1


I'm trying to keep my composure.  It's difficult though, when a beloved friend looks like this.

It's my sewing machine.  It broke about four days before Christmas.  Technohubby determined that it was a stripped gear.  He loosened a screw so that the cogs of the gears met again.  It made it through the Christmas sewing, but died shortly thereafter.

The man at the repair shop quoted me a price of $175-$200 to fix it, and advised me to just buy a new one.  Technohubby found the replacement gear online for $7.99 and the service manual for $14.00.  He's hard at work on the problem.

I'm sure there are fabulous new machines to be had.  But my machine has been with me a long time, and I'm rather attached to it.  Right now, I can hear it humming away down in the basement on Tehcnohubby's workbench, practicing its way through a scrap of muslin.  I remain hopeful.

Max Turns Fourteen

Fourteen years ago today he was born.  He was large and squalling and hungry.  He doesn't squall anymore, but other than that...nothing much has changed.  Seriously, what a joy he is!  He's kind-hearted, responsible, and fun-loving.  Happy birthday, Max!


The Blizzard of 2010 came and went and deposited about 12 inches of snow on our world.

Breakfast was warm bowls of oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans.

After about 18 hours of snowfall, the sun came out.  Taking advantage of the fine weather, a flock of wild turkeys paid a visit.

And a blue jay stopped by to feast awhile.

Busy feeding people within the house and wildlife outside the house...just another goodwife's day in wintery New England.

Christmas Day

We had a lovely and relaxing Christmas day.  I hope you did too!

We spent the morning opening presents, until all that was left under the tree were a couple of birthday presents for Max.

Colette and Max did a little target practice with Max's new airsoft weaponry.

We had mid-day munchies.

Some people indulged in naps, others spent time on laptops, and I curled up with my new bread baking book and read for awhile.  I love getting at least one book for Christmas!

Technohubby and I went for a walk with the dog in the crisp air.

The table was set, dinner was made, all partook of the feasting, and the guys did the dishes (thank you!).

And the sun set on another beautiful, blessed Christmas day!

Merry Christmas!

-Christmas Eve service at our church-
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:1-5

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!
My prayer for you is that you may repent of your sins, for "all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.  He was the perfect sacrifice...His perfect righteousness can be yours.  Repent and believe in Him.

Oranges for Christmas

"At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth..."
-Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"

Snow Arrives

Just when we thought we might not have a white Christmas afterall, snow began falling this morning and fell softly all day long.  The holly in the flower bed outside the living room window looks even lovelier now.

I spent the day sewing and appreciating the snowy view from the sewing room.

Just before dusk, to shake off my warm and cozy sewing stupor, I went for a walk...not far...just to the top of the hill.   It was nice to hear the crunch, crunch of snow beneath my boots once again.  Wood smoke scented the crisp air.  Rabbit tracks crossed the road.  And all around me was the muffled silence of a snow-wrapped world.  Wonderful!

Christmas Day Menu

- Christmas Morning -

Egg Casserole
Potato Casserole
Raspberry Coffee Cake
Coffee - Hot Cocoa - Orange Juice

- Christmas Dinner -

Glazed, Spiral-Sliced Ham
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Orange-Glazed Carrots
Spinach Salad with Raspberries and Candied Pecans - Raspberry Vinaigrette
Dinner Rolls
Chocolate-Raspberry Trifle

Party Planning

At this time of year, when people are frequently hosting parties and having guests, here are a few things I've learned over the years of parties and events we've hosted in our home. 

- A lot of people worry during a party whether or not each guest is having a good time.  I gave up worrying about this a long time ago.  One year, I looked around our home filled with wonderful friends, and was just overwhelmed at what fabulous friends God had blessed us with.  And the thought occured to me, "If someone doesn't have a good time at this party, it's their own fault, because we have really fun friends!"  That was a turning point for me.  I absolved myself of the responsibility and let each person own it themselves.  So far...no complaints!

-Forget about creating a "perfect" party, and focus on creating memories for people.  You'll be happier, and everyone will love your party!  This is probably my best party planning tip.  It changes everything.

-Remember the little guests.  Remember to greet all the children at your party, offer to pour them a drink, ask them if they got enough to eat, point them towards the trampoline, have some crayons and paper handy, fill the candy jars, have a few foods that they'll remember (those would be gingerbread men at our party).

- Let your invitations set the tone for your party.  The wording on a Christmas party invitation should be joyous in tone!  Ours typically say something like, "Come!  Be of cheer!  Indulge your sweet tooth!"

- Serve a variety of beverages.  Even if it's a cold night, some people will want a cold drink.  Water should be available throughout the party.  People appreciate being able to choose the tea bag they want, so have a carafe of hot water available.  Coffee is a must.  I always have milk and sugar cubes available for coffee and tea drinkers.  (I use sugar cubes because they're fun, and occassionally little kids sneak a few...and that's a happy party memory for them!)  Don't forget stir sticks or spoons.  I avoid serving hot cocoa, because if it spills it's bad news for the carpet.

- Serve a variety of foods.  Even for our cookie party, I make sure there's something for people who like chocolate and those who don't, for nut lovers and people with nut allergies.

- Have fresh fruit available for people who would just like something fresh.  I'm always happy when people ask me if they can eat an apple at a party filled with cookies.  It tells me that they feel at home at our home, and that's a blessing!

- Appeal to all the senses.  When you're planning your party, ask yourself, "What will appeal to people's sense of taste?" (food, drink, candy)  "What will appeal to the sense of smell?" (simmering wassail, no wet dog smells, scented candles)  "What will appeal to the sense of sight?"  (everything clean and pretty)  "What will appeal to the sense of touch?" (warm hugs for a welcome and parting greeting)  "What will appeal to the sense of hearing?" (background music, singing)

- Lighting should be ambient.  Overhead lights on dimmers are wonderful!  (The key is to have the lights up enough to keep people awake, but low enough to be cozy.)  Lamps turned on.  Candles lit.

- A warm welcome starts at the front door (or before).  We hang a lantern with a candle from our mailbox at the street.  This year we set lanterns all along our front walk.  A pretty, seasonal wreath on the front door, potted plants on the front porch...all say "Welcome!  I've made a fuss for you because I love you!"

- Ask yourself, "What do I want people to remember about our party?" and plan your party to create those memories.  Then it's sure to be wonderful!

Baking Week

Every year for the last 18 years (minus the year I was enormously pregnant with Max), we have had a Christmas Cookie Open House.  The girls and I bake hundreds and hundreds of cookies the week of the party.

This week we have been very busy with chocolate.  I love the way Baker's chocolate has a colonial woman on every square of chocolate.

Colette busied herself with a double boiler.

There were nuts, of course.

We went through two or three dozen eggs.

This is the "menu" for this year's cookie party:

-gingerbread men-
-dark chocolate-dipped macaroons-
-peppermint sticks-
-raspberry pita-
-dark chocolate-dipped pecan shortbread cookies-
-chocolate peppermint crinkle cookies-
-chocolate-raspberry bars-
-chocolate-cranberry brownies-

For the chocolate-cranberry brownies, I simply use Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Brownie recipe (from her original Quick Cook cookbook) and replace the nuts with fresh cranberries.  The...ahem...massive amount of sugar in that recipe sweetens those cranberries up just perfectly!  But really, you could use any good brownie recipe, or even an excellent mix, like Ghiradelli, and just add fresh cranberries.  This year, the cranberries were exceptionally large, so I chopped them slightly.

Coffee, tea, and steaming hot wassail will complete the "menu".  Tomorrow night's the night!

December 16th - 237th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party

In honor this day, December 16th, the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, a poem from "The American Gift Book"...

Revolutionary Tea

There was an old lady lived over the sea,
And she was an Island Queen;
Her daughter lived off in a new countrie,
With an ocean of water between.

The old lady's pockets were full of gold,
But never contented was she;
So she called to her daughter to pay her a tax
Of "thrippence" a pound on her tea.

"Now, mother, dear mother," the daughter replied,
"I shan't do the thing that you ax;
I'm willing to pay a fair price for the tea,
But never the thrippeny tax.

"You shall," quoth the mother, and reddened with rage,
"For you're my own daughter, ye see;
And sure 'tis quite proper the daughter should pay
Her mother a tax on her tea."

And so the old lady her servants called up,
And pack'd off a budget of tea,
And, eager for thrippence a pound, she put in
Enough for a large familie.

She ordered her servants to bring home the tax,
Declaring her child should obey,
Or, old as she was, and almost woman-grown,
She'd half whip her life away.

The tea was conveyed to the daughter's door,
All down by the ocean side,
And the bouncing girl poured out every pound
In the dark and boiling tide.

And then she called out to the Island Queen,
"Oh, mother, dear mother," quoth she,
"Your tea you may have, when 'tis steeped enough,
But never a tax from me -
No, never a tax from me."

--Seba Smith

Interview at Blueberry Cottage

Suzanne, at Blueberry Cottage, did a blog posting on "Buying Handmade and Local" today, just in time for Christmas.  With sweet graciousness, she asked to interview me and highlight my Etsy shop.  I was thrilled!  To read her posting, click here.  It's full of great suggestions for gift giving from other great Etsy shops and sources too.

Thanks so much, Suzanne!

You Learn Something New...

…every day!  That’s what they say.  And Saturday, it was definitely true.  I learned an obscure Christmas food fact.

The girls and I toured the Parson’s House at Old Sturbridge Village.  I always love to go there, because there is usually some cooking going on at the cooking hearth.  This particular night, it was bustling and smelled of spices and woodsmoke.  The women were making fruitcake.

Before them, on the table, were all the ingredients you might typically find in a fruitcake: eggs, butter, flour, spices, currants, raisins, etc.  But do you see anything that seems out of place in the ingredients arrayed before them?

If you answered “watermelon” you were right.  It sure caught my eye.  Why would a watermelon be an ingredient in fruitcake?  Why would it have been in the 1830′s, since watermelon would hardly be in season in December (and I don’t think they keep in a root cellar very well…but who knows?).  I was curious enough to ask, “Do you put watermelon in your fruitcake?”  The historical interpreter replied, “It’s a citron.”  Citron?  Ah…”citron” is one of those obscure ingredients in modern fruitcakes…one of those candied things in those 5-lb. wonders your Aunt Mildred foisted off on her dear relatives.  I looked at it again.  It certainly looked like a watermelon to me.  Amazed, I asked, “Then it’s NOT a watermelon?”  She said, “It IS a watermelon.  It’s a citron.”  Still confused, I asked, “So a citron is a variety of watermelon?”  She nodded.  It was a citron melon, which (according to Wikipedia) is “an ancestral variety of watermelon”.  I asked her if it could be eaten alone and fresh, like a watermelon.  But she told me that it really didn’t taste very good like that, because it was very pithy.  To demonstrate, she very sweetly held it close to the candle and held it very still, so I could get a picture of it in the dim light.

So, apparently, it was sitting there not because it would’ve been added to the fruitcake as is, but because it would’ve been preserved in season and added to the fruitcake in December in its preserved form.  The interpreter told me that it would’ve been chopped finely and mixed with sugar and cooked down; the sugar would act as a preservative.  You can see it preserved in the bowl on the right.

We were given delicious samples of the fruitcake they made, which is nothing at all like your Aunt Mildred’s.  And they gave us a copy of an old recipe for fruitcake and the modern interpretation.  Here are both recipes for your enjoyment:

from “The American Frugal Housewife” by Mrs. Child, 1833
Four pounds of flour, three pounds of butter, three pounds of sugar, four pounds of currants, two pounds of raisins, twenty-four eggs, half a pint of brandy, or lemon-brandy, one ounce of mace, and three nutmegs.  A little molasses makes it dark colored, which is desirable.  Half a pound of citron improves it; but it is not necessary.  To be baked two hours and a half, or three hours. 

the modern method
1/2 lb. raisins
1/4 c. brandy
3 c. flour
1 t. mace
2 t. nutmeg
1 lb. currants
3/4 lb. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 eggs
2 T. molasses to 1/2 c.
2 oz. citron
Soak raisins in brandy overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift flour before measuring.  Sift flour with spices.  Add currants and citron, if desired.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition.  Stir in molasses and any brandy that was not absorbed by the raisins.  Stir in sifted flour with spices and fruits.  Grease two 5″ x 9″ loaf pans, three 8-in. round pans, or one 10-in. tube pan.  Pour batter into greased pans and bake about 45 mins. – 1 hr.

Drive the Cold Winter Away

All hail to the days that merit more praise
Than all the rest of the year,
And welcome the nights that double delights
as well for the poor as the peer!

Good fortune attend each merry man's friend,
That doth but the best that he may;
Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
To drive the cold winter away.

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbors together do meet

To sit by the fire, in friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet;

Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay;

The old and the young doth carol and song
To drive the cold winter away.

When Christmas' tide comes in like a bride,
With holly and ivy clad,

Twelve days of the year much mirth and good cheer
In every household is had;

The country guise is then to devise
Some gambols of Christmas play,
Whereat the young men do the best that they can
To drive the cold winter away.

When white-bearded frost hath threatened his worse,
And fallen from branch and briar,

Then time calls away from husbandry halls
And from the good countryman's fire,

Together to go, to plough and to sow
To get us both food and array,
And thus will content the time we have spent
To drive the cold winter away.

Photos were taken last Saturday when Felicity, Colette, and I attended Old Sturbridge Village's "Christmas by Candlelight" program.  A lovely evening!

Farmhouse Stockings

More Farmhouse Stockings, made from a 19th century French grainsack, went into the shop tonight.

Such an amazing textile to work with!  Just makes me wish the fibers could talk and tell me where they've been.
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