Here’s a Christmas Essay I wrote three years ago that still has great significance to me today. Many blessings to all who follow my blog and if you celebrate Christmas or don’t “make memories” to cherish forever and ever.
Here’s a Christmas Essay I wrote three years ago that still has great significance to me today. Many blessings to all who follow my blog and if you celebrate Christmas or don’t “make memories” to cherish forever and ever.
I like having/buying flowers for my home on a regular basis, not just for Valentines Day or other special occasions. To do this I must buy my flowers at a friendly price within my budget constraints. So I buy all of my flower bouquets from the supermarkets we shop in every week. Often when you look at the bouquets of roses in Walmart they look pretty sad. But for less than $5.00 they’re not too bad. Here’s a trick I’ve learned that a friendly florist once showed me.
When you get your bouquet home from the supermarket trim the ends of each flower diagonally so that they can drink the water you will be setting them in. The temperature of the water should be whatever the temperature of your tap water is when you turn the tap on. So lukewarm to cool but never ice cold or hot. Use the flower food packets that come with. And for roses always remove the guard petal. Florists will have removed this petal, but flowers purchased in supermarkets or stands will have the guard petals still on. The guard petal is the petal on the rose that is discolored, frayed, loosened, ruffled or just has an older look to it. If you don’t remove this petal your roses will never open. Here is a great article all about guard petals on roses.
Here are my flowers a day after removing the guard petals–
Happy Valentines Day!
It’s not long after Christmas that I begin to think gardening. This year I requested my seed catalogs early–
I mentioned earlier this fall I was going to overwinter a geranium and rosemary plant. Well, the geranium ended up getting gnats in it and all new growth was yellow so I threw it. The rosemary plant, however—
has some new growth. I could hardly believe it because it has really been looking rough. For once following directions for care has gotten me somewhere. Anyone else out there have the same problems as I do when you follow directions of care. I’ve killed African violets, succulents, Christmas cactus, so many to mention following care directions. But my 40-year-old cactus and a couple of succulents I have are thriving and I’ve ignored them both.
At Christmas time I bought a bag of Halos at Walmart, which almost always tend to be a bad idea, but this year perfection!
Three a day has kept the doctor away even when my husband came down with a slight cold/allergy that lasted for four days after Christmas. I had him take Sambucol Elderberry syrup from his first symptom and whatever he had was cut in half and like I said lasted just four days.
My Lemon Cypress is holding on as well–
This year, coming soon, I will be posting about Endocrine Disruptors–a subject I’ve been researching for about three months. I will have that post completed in the next two weeks. I also hope to take you on my journey ordering and caring for Heirloom tomatoes, what I order from my seed catalogs, some favorite Keto and Paleo recipes I tried over the holidays, and so much more.
A Christmas Essay by Kim VanderWerf for goodfoodgreatdesign ™ (previously posted on my blog Feast 12/12/15)
I grew up in the 1970s in a little valley about thirteen miles from the nearest town and belonged to a family of five. Which was made up of mom, dad, a younger brother, and a younger sister. We lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse next to our grandparents’ on the family farm. From our home, we could see our grandparents’ next door, our neighbors across the main gravel road in front of our home, distant neighbors by their barn light (known as a security light now) and the wisps of smoke from their wood stove. Occasionally we would hear the bark of that distant neighbor’s coon hounds if the wind blew just right. As the year wound down and the holidays grew near, a certain mood took over in our household. Christmas time was a special time in our home; a time when it seemed my parents’ moods brightened and even they had a child-like state of mind. You know the one I’m talking about. The happy, peaceful and hopeful feelings that every child has at Christmas time. My siblings and I didn’t have to be reminded to behave, nor do I ever remember being threatened that Santa would not come. Though no doubt we were anxious, and probably at times slightly giddy, we knew that Christmas was about more than just presents. You see our parents’ weren’t like some of the parents’ of the time, they did not compete at Christmas time with the Jones’.
First and foremost in our home at Christmas time it was all about Christ. Christ was brought into our lives by way of the church we belonged to and its annual Christmas program. It was there that we learned the story of the baby Jesus as each year one of us took a turn participating in the play. Though I loved going to church and enjoyed watching the Christmas play, I really looked forward to the box of candy we were given as we exited the nave. The play was held at night time so all the way home all you would hear from mom was “no candy before bed”. To which of course meant I had very little time to ever so quietly sneak out the biggest piece of peanut brittle I could find.
Christmas time meant a lot of time spent with the elder members of our family. I grew up with four step great aunts all in their 70’s and a step great uncle. There was also a reverend in our family along with a church choir director. So one could say I was brought up surrounded by Christian influence. Often my father would include bible verses in simple conversation even though he himself was a lapsed Lutheran. Whether it was the ever-present Christian influence or the spirit of the season, mom made sure that giving to others remained an important part of our Christmas festivities. She was ever busy trying to find just the right gift for the elders, wrapping them just right, and making arrangements from one to the other on when we’d come over to visit. Even at their ages each great aunt had their home warmly decorated for Christmas and all had made the customary goodies from their native country of Norway. Once the meal was ready we would enjoy Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, carrots, corn, and gravy. Desserts were varied but usually were cranberry salads, glorified rice and of course- lefse, rosettes, and sandbakkels.
After the meal we three kids would sit quietly amongst the adults as they visited. Then eventually we’d be handed our gift. From the elders, our gifts were usually homemade. Over the years my sister and I received hand knit Barbie clothes, stocking caps, mittens, and homemade Christmas tree ornaments. Never did we look down upon these gifts even though we knew our friends were receiving the store bought kind from their aunts and uncles.
Because of the different groups, my mom belonged to there was always the Secret Santa gifts to look forward to buying and receiving. It was fun to watch her get someone’s name and then have to go out and try to find the gift requested. It was even more fun to see her expression when someone who wasn’t shopper savvy would draw her name and ultimately give her a gift she hadn’t requested. But of course mom would make good use of it and the rest of us, well, we’d sure get a good laugh out of it. My sister and I belonged to 4-H so we would also have a Christmas party and exchange gifts. I always asked for a Lifesaver’s Storybook for my gift and sometimes I would actually get one. For me, that was the ultimate gift and one I still asked for up to a few years ago. As a family, I think we enjoyed the giving of gifts way more than ever receiving them.
Christmas Eve was always spent at our grandparents’ home watching Doug Henning, the magician, on t.v. while grandma prepared her Oyster Stew. Neither of my siblings, nor I or mom, would eat the Oyster Stew so grandma prepared a casserole for us. Of course, it goes without saying my eyes were constantly perusing the candy dishes because grandpa would usually have quite an assortment of hard candy at this time of year. After the evening meal, we would present grandpa and grandma with their gifts. Grandpa was easy to buy for because like me he had a major sweet tooth. So he usually got a flannel shirt, some mixed nuts, and hard candy. Grandma liked the prettier things in life so her gifts were pretty knick-knacks, gloves, or her favorite– a gift set of Chantilly dusting powder. Before the end of the night, grandma would open a box of chocolates and each of us would be able to pick one. I always wanted the vanilla cream one but usually ended up with a caramel nougat. Then back to our home we would go where we would shortly be sent up to bed. After a few reminders that “Santa won’t come if you’re still awake”, we would settle down and go off to sleep.
Come Christmas morning we would wait for two (sometimes more) hours for dad to finish chores. While Mom was in the kitchen making a special breakfast of sausages and eggs we were allowed to open our stocking. Our stockings were stretched out old socks once worn by Dad now retired, clean, and full of goodies. Each stocking contained a handful of hard candy in cling film, a candy cane, and the ever traditional orange. You can read the story behind the tradition of putting oranges in stocking here, which I thought was very interesting. Having cared for many elderly people throughout my healthcare career, I know that getting an orange for Christmas during the Great Depression was a real treat and sometimes all a family could afford. Mom no doubt was carrying on a tradition started by her grandparents as she was born a few years after the final year of the Great Depression in Canada. Fruit at Christmas time and all through the holidays is a big thing throughout Europe, the U.S., and Canada. There’s fruitcakes, fruit baskets, and fruit of the month clubs to name just a few things that promote the giving and partaking of fruit during the Christmas holidays. Of course, as soon as I saw the hard candy or candy cane the orange I was given was soon lost to the world. Just kidding, it was set aside to eat AFTER the candy and breakfast was eaten.
Once dad was in the house we could open our bigger present; as we each got one big present. I usually asked for LP records, while my sister asked for games or clothing. Our little brother always wanted whatever new John Deere tractor or piece of machinery was popular that year from the local farm implement. Smaller gifts were Christmas nighties or slippers, new denim jeans or socks. After our presents were opened it was dad’s turn and I think all of us were most excited for his reaction. Each year he got the same things, yet, he was always thankful and happy to get new ones-socks, long underwear, and that ever-present winter staple in the Midwest– a flannel shirt. And what about mom you ask? Well, she purchased her own Christmas gifts because she was ever so particular as to what she would want. Usually, she wanted a flannel nightgown, soft socks or slippers, and sometimes a soft sweater or housecoat. She bought the gifts I wrapped them and come Christmas morning they were a complete surprise to her.
Christmas decorations in our home were simple; our tree was always decorated with handmade ornaments. The traditions were abundant from the meal we ate on Christmas Eve with our grandparents’ to the oranges in our stockings Christmas morn. Christmas vacation was a time for sledding parties and ice-skating and one year even going for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Mom would spend two weeks every year making her famous homemade fudge and special Christmas Sugar cookies. Which of course meant that between all the Christmas break activities I was forever sneaking into the pantry eating fudge and sugar cookies. Christmas dinner was usually mom’s famous baked BBQ ribs but sometimes it was a ham with her delicious scalloped potatoes and creamed corn. I loved, loved, loved my Christmases growing up. It set in stone how I’ve spent each Christmas since I’ve left home. Steeped in tradition with its common theme in giving, Christ is still the reason for the season in our home.
Each year at this time I look back and the ghost of Christmas past is very present. It’s a great experience, I’m very thankful for the memories I have. As I grew into an adult I passed some of my family’s Christmas traditions onto others, and I am certain that if they’ve remembered the giving part rather than focusing on the receiving part their Christmases have always been memorable. When I first met my husband he was very stressed at Christmas time. His family celebrated, throughout his childhood in the states, Christmas on December 5th. That is the date that people from the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas Day. I’ve written about this day on my blog a few times. In short, it is a day dedicated to the children in the Netherlands where St. Nick arrives by boat and gives gifts and candies to all. As adults, my husband’s family drew names and then got together on December 5th to exchange the gifts.
When we got married I was expected to change my day of celebration to December 5th. But I would not do that. Instead, I compromised and did both because there was no way I was going to give up the way I celebrated Christmas. Their celebration did not involve Sinterklaas arriving in their home giving gifts to kids but instead was each adult drawing names and then buying the gifts from that person’s list. Christmas dinner was the same meal served at family get-togethers throughout the year. And although we enjoyed getting together with family on Christmas day what inevitably happened between family members and gift giving made it a very stressful day for us. Let’s just suffice it to say what usually happened would definitely rival some of the Christmas movies made today where the entire family is having a meltdown.
By our second year of marriage, I had taken my husband home so that he could see how my family celebrated this special time. I wanted him to experience how warm, and friendly and giving centered my family made the special day. After that experience, he was sold on celebrating Christmas the way my family enjoyed celebrating it. By the third year of our marriage, we were celebrating in our home with some of the traditions I had grown up with and some new ones of our own. Now twenty-one Christmases later Christ and the gift of giving is still the main focus of our Christmas time.
As your family gets ready to enjoy whatever celebration you have in the month of December don’t let how others choose to celebrate the day affect how you enjoy yours. Comparison really is the thief of all joy. Enjoy your traditions and make new ones. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Good Cheer!
Here are a few more Christmas decor pictures. Notice half-way through our little ham needed to get in on the action. He kept posing in front of the camera each place I stopped to take a snap. Finally, once I got the hint, I took his picture. Our Christmas tree is decorated in Blue, White, and Red as a remembrance of those who lost their lives and the families of those whose lives were lost in Paris. You may also notice if you click on the photo that there are spaceships. Yes, spaceships. For nearly twenty-one years my husband has been collecting Star Trek ships (Hallmark Ornaments) and this year I promised him they could go on the tree. So they are there amongst the blue, white and red and if I may so I think they look just grand!
Until next time always remember to eat good food!
Written by Kim A VanderWerf
Cranberries are definitely not just for Thanksgiving. Cranberries work perfectly paired with ham, duck, and turkey at Christmas time too.
Last Christmas I made an Orange Cranberry Bread w/ Honey from a recipe here that was a hit. It worked great to serve it Christmas morning, and by Christmas dinner, it was ALL gone.
Every year I watch two Christmas movies from the show Little House on the Prairie–A Merry Ingalls Christmas and then the past three years I’ve made one homemade ornament or decoration inspired by these heartwarming shows. The first year we made a silver star out of aluminum foil like the one Carrie buys for a penny at the mercantile. The second year my husband made this paper garland–
this year we are making a cranberry garland like this one over at Ocean Spray only we’re skipping the popcorn.
At Thanksgiving time I don’t make cranberry sauce, I make a cranberry relish instead. I use a recipe by Tyler Florence that works great and goes well with turkey, ham, or duck. I also use it to spread like butter over bread with leftover ham or turkey for sandwiches.
So, that’s my story about my love for cranberries at Christmas time. Making homemade ornaments for Christmas is a way to incorporate something simple, yet cherished, into your holiday making. Cranberries though traditionally served at Thanksgiving look marvelous and taste great when added to bread, relish, even salsa.
I’ll be sharing my post with Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life— come on over and join the party!
I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 18 years old. For my husband I’ve been making the same Thanksgiving meal almost 23 years. Several years back I decided not to try new dishes for the first time during holiday meal making, because if they don’t turn out then my stress level goes through the roof. Nothing worse than a dish that flopped and there are a minimum of10 hungry people at the table. Every year though I say to myself– “self, I should try something new this year”, but I never do. Until this year when I began prepping our Thanksgiving meal a few weeks in advance with a trial run of mashed cauliflower and a new dessert- pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting.
The recipes I chose worked great and both the cauliflower and pumpkin bundt cake turned out terrific.
I followed a recipe from Eating Well for Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.
Now, I don’t like garlic. Well, I used to, but I haven’t been able to tolerate it or onions for about five years now. No clue why?
Once my cauliflower was cooked, mashed and creamy I added butter, buttermilk, and nutmeg. Try Nutmeg– I promise you this will become your go to seasoning. It works well on cauliflower that has been steamed or boiled (just sprinkle a little over the top once done) and works great with green beans and brussel sprouts. Just make sure to have a bit of butter worked into the veggies and then lightly sprinkle with nutmeg. In place of butter, if you like, you can use any oil you would normally drizzle on veggies. I would find a good priced quality extra virgin olive oil if you are opposed to adding butter.
My menu looks something like this—
(I love King Arthur Flour recipes– their pecan pie recipe is a big hit everytime I make it)
Until next time Happy Thanksgiving!!!
My Sinterklaas gift! – Beekman 1802 Snow Globe String Lights (sold out in stores)
Welcome December and busy schedule. Time is moving quickly as it usually does this time of year. Between trying to catch holiday lights and holiday movies, and Hallmark’s Christmas shows there is work, baking, entertaining and of course our volunteer schedule to keep up on. I’ve baked peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars, lefse, sugar cookies and rosettes thus far. More to come before Christmas I am sure. Here in Wisconsin the snow has finally arrived a long with the bitterly cold temperatures of this time of year. I hope this December day finds you happy, healthy, and full of the spirit of Christmas!
Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy. And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).
My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.
Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!
The fall temps of late have been just wonderful. Fall color came and went so quick that we really didn’t get a good fix from it this year. Everywhere we traveled the predominant color was rust, though we did see some beautiful red maples too.
Our container garden has been put to bed and our trees have been mulched. We grow trees year round on our deck and given them away as gifts. A tree my friends is a gift for a lifetime. We have two junipers and one pine. We had two pines but one died and we actually thought the other one would too. I took special care of it this past spring and though it still looks rough in the places it dropped needles, I think it will survive. My mum has lasted longer than any mum I’ve ever bought, it was grown locally near La Crosse WI and purchased at our coop. I think I paid $12.00 for it the first weekend in September. It’s made it through three light frosts-no problem.
We’ve made a few more changes this past summer and into the fall here in our home. The first one is once we were done with the margarine we’ve been buying nearly 20 years, out it went and in came butter. We had been using butter sparingly on sandwiches and sweet corn. But I hadn’t been cooking with butter for probably 30 years or more. Now after using it for cooking these past few weeks I never want to be without it again. We use Organic Valley butter- because well we love Organic Valley products. The one thing that has always turned my husband off from eating butter is the after taste or salty sour cream taste he claims he’s had upon trying it. Whatever that is? Organic Valley butter doesn’t have it. We’re loving the switch. The second change we made, that probably should have been made a long time ago, is we threw out the last four frozen french fries and have replaced them with homemade home fries. Every week I go and buy 8-12 organic russets to make home fries from. To make these fries you wash the potatoes well, cut into wedges and place on a greased cookie sheet- I put foil down first on mine. Then drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt and make sure all wedges are well coated. I put them into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes until the edges are crisp but the inside is tender. I serve with a dollop of organic sour cream and voila!- no more GMO french fries ever again!
The third change I’ve made is that after 35+ years of saying no to coffee I’ve learned to enjoy a cup of French pressed coffee every now and then. I’ve never liked coffee. I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the after taste. We have bought really expensive grinders, presses and coffee pots and oh boy have we bought some expensive whole beans to grind. Nothing ever changed my mind. I’ve even owned and resold two very expensive, before they were trendy, French presses.
A year or so ago I began drinking tea, something else I said I would never do. But I don’t drink just any tea I drink therapeutic teas-Marshmallow tea is my favorite. It’s not what you think- Marshmallow tea is tea made from the Marshmallow Root, it’s an herbal tea that has mucilaginous properties. What’s that? Marshmallow tea produces, once it is digested, a silky smooth mucous-like liquid. A liquid that coats your membranes all the way down to your intestines and possibly further. You have membranes all over your body- it coats them and soothes them and calms inflammation in them. It is used by people with IBS, digestive disorders, bowel/intestinal issues even some urinary and bladder issues. It’s an anti-inflammatory herbal tea. I’ve never read about anyone getting sick from it and you cannot drink too much of it. Although I limit myself to one cup a day.
Even after starting to drink tea coffee was still out. I love hot cocoa in the winter when I want to warm up. I don’t like homemade hot cocoa instead I’ve always opted for store bought -Swiss Miss. However a couple of winters ago I experienced some issues after drinking some and discovered all of the scary ingredients in it. Which one made me sick? Well I continued to try and drink it and continued to get sick -mainly diarrhea and dizziness. I am guessing the dried milk whey and the carrageenan and the mysterious artificial flavor added. Every other kind of boxed hot cocoa mix is the same so I needed to find something else to drink in cold weather. Ahem. All that was left for me was to try coffee…again.
A friend bought me a French press for my birthday, and my husband went out and bought a breakfast blend- mild and coarsely ground and I tried it and I liked it. No plans to drink it every day, but I would have a cup socially or as a means to warm up on a cold Winter’s day. Which at some point will be upon us here in Wisconsin.
The wreath in my post is one that I am making. I bought the green part of the wreath believe it or not for $6.00 at Menard’s. I’ve added mini lights and a poinsettia that clips on and may add something else ? Maybe a bulb or two just not sure at this point. I am not a crafter, but making your own and having it around year after year makes much more sense to me than buying fresh and having it last a month and then throwing it away. In our case living in town it means city dump and I’m just not going to do that to something so beautiful that belongs out in nature. We haven’t had live trees or pine boughs and wreaths in the house for over 20 years- cats, yes cats. Though Gabe has never messed with our faux tree and ornaments he would eat a real tree- bark, sap and all. Last year we bought a new 8ft faux from Target and then this year way back in September, when Walmart was just starting to think about Christmas, my husband spotted a skinny tree. I’ve wanted a skinny tree so bad the past three years. In fact that is what led us to Target last year – they had skinny trees in their ads. But to my dismay, by the time we got there, they were all gone. So we bought a beautiful almost real looking 8 ft. tree instead. The skinny tree at Walmart was really cute and under $60.00 so we bought it. And yes you guessed it, it is this year’s Christmas tree.
The painted frame is my attempt at painting. I don’t like to paint, but I found this antique frame at a barn sale this past summer and I wanted to spruce it up. Sage is an old color, an old primitive color. I’ve got a few things in sage throughout my home so sage it is. It looks nice and will go well in our kitchen. I guess painting isn’t so bad after all.
That’s it for now. I hope you can all get out and enjoy the weather if it’s good in your area and have a great weekend!
Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending. Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.
A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.
I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~
freshly cleaned carpet
My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.
I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.
That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!