Thursday, December 30, 2010

THE HOLIDAYS FADED AWAY GRADUALLY . . .

We women gathered in the kitchen after the table was cleared, opened the oven door and gathered round in various attitudes of comfort. Then we “let our hair down” and visited. The holidays faded away gradually . . . Ethel Dobson Robinson on Christmas 1936

Can't you just see the women gathered around the old wood stove, sitting on a hodge-podge of available chairs and stools, the oven door open? And what do you suppose they talked about when they "let their hair down"? 

Today it can be said that the holidays are gradually fading away in my world.  Tomorrow we will not only leave but close our country home for the winter. Fortunately I have already anticipated my winter sewing / blogging needs and carried to town those things I might want.

This morning Mike was anxious to check out our vehicles parked at the neighbor's and asked me to pack up some things that he could carry out to the Dakota. So, I packed the laundry, some books, textiles and clean clothes, and a few food items, which he loaded onto the 4-wheeler.
Off he went -- down, down, down the lane -- and then up to the road -- which was plowed by the county again this morning. Past Plank's old place he went and up Plank's Pitch to the neighbor's where the vehicles are parked. He found the back of the Dakota was frozen shut and he hadn't taken his keys to unlock the cab. He returned to the house for keys and hot water, and in the end he had to remove his snow gear and climb through the cab window and into the pick-up bed in order to thaw the latch with hot water. By the time he accomplished his task he was freezing. It was probably 20 degrees.

I have to say here that my husband is wonderful to carry me in and out of here with the stuff I deem important. He never complains about all the back and forthing.

It's been a great holiday for us -- and I look forward to continued nurturing of my inner child. KW

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GOOD MORNING FROM WINTER LAND

Here's what it's like at Gilbert this morning -- 29 degrees (down from 31) and snowing. The wind is blowing. Looks like a blizzard to me. It rained yesterday, turning to snow last night. During the night I could hear the snow slide off the roof -- not cold enough for it to adhere, I guess. 
 "Here they come," I called to Mike Monday afternoon as I noticed Nick's little black Subaru making the approach to our lane. I guess Nellie knows what that phrase means because she was immediately at the back door. We let her out on the porch while Mike and I watched the little car from the kitchen window, picking up a little momentum as it approached the steep part of the lane. Whew! They made it, slipping only a little. But yesterday -- Tuesday the 28th -- Mike got nervous that we might not make it out on Friday, and we took both vehicles to the top of the hill and left them at the neighbor's place. The forecast is for snow and then a temperature drop.
 Here's our tree. Mike and I had waited to open our gifts while Nick and Hallie had already had Christmas with Nick's mother. Well, we had an embarrassing amount of gifts to open while Nick and Hallie sat and watched. But an inspirational Christmas was had by all, I think. Amongst other things, Nick and Hallie received books on culturing berry bushes and fruit trees, which they commenced at once to study. I received Vintage Notions by Amy Barackman, which will be the subject of another post. And Hallie gave Mike the usual -- a selection of history/adventure books. and he has started reading The Last Canyon by John Vernon. 







This environment is not appropriate for a piano, but we are so happy to have it anyway. Hallie got tired of putting up with some sticking keys and decided to see what she could do about it. Well, key's will stick when wood swells, and I figured there wasn't much we could do. Imagine our surprise when Hallie discovered a quarter stuck between those keys. Easy fix. The mint date on the worn quarter was 1982.

Here's a night shot of the house in Christmas readiness. In retrospect, we might have prepared a little better for the photo op, but you get the idea.

Oh -- and if you go to the Mile High Warnocks site (linked to the right), there's a cute video of two-year-old Emmy singing "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." KW

Monday, December 27, 2010

WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS . . .



“It’s a great treat to be at home and to have had Christmas here. . .  Thursday a.m. we pulled down the blinds and had the tree. It was piled full at the foot, besides the table. A huge Christmas was had by all. Myrtle Dobson, Christmas 1933

As we await the arrival of Hallie and Nick today, December 27, I thought of the Dobson Christmas of 1933, when my dad was supposed to join the family for Christmas but didn't. There was a storm that year, with lots of precipitation down the west coast into California. Evidently my dad decided the weather was too bad for travel and gave up the trip to spend the holiday with friends in Seattle. His sister, Myrtle (quoted above) came by train from Portland without much difficulty. The problem was that my dad didn't send word that he had changed his plans -- if indeed he had ever really planned to come -- and that was regrettable, of course. 

Anyway, they held the "tree" for him for several days, finally determined he wasn't coming, and went ahead to open their gifts a day or two after Christmas. I thought of this particular correspondence because by pre-arrangement we are holding our "tree." The new tradition is "flexibility." Nick and Hallie are on their way -- woo-hoo! -- and we anticipate no travel difficulties today.

I spent Christmas Day afternoon making sacks for gifts out of holiday fabrics. This past year I gave away all but a few rolls of my large, slowly-dwindling stash of holiday wrapping paper, and now I stash fabric instead -- much more satisfactory and better use of storage space. But -- I was still slow to get started with the holiday bag production. It feels good to have made some progress. 

Here's Vance's recipe for shrimp aspic which he always made for the Christmas Eve buffet. He wrote the recipe on the back of a piano recital program from Tuesday, April 15, 1958. We always used the left-over recital programs for scratch paper. Because this piece of paper is well-worn, I am confident this is the recipe he used.

SHRIMP ASPIC
1 tbsp gelatin softened in 1/2 cup cold water
Bring to a boil 3/4 cup of water and 1 tbsp of lemon juice
Dissolve gelatin in hot mixture.
When cool add 3/4 cup of cocktail sauce.
Add a little red coloring, 1 tbsp of finely chopped onion, 2 tbsps of finely chopped celery, 2 tbsps of finely chopped green pepper and ditto chopped dill pickle. Add 2 tsps sugar.
Layer gelatin mixture with 2 cans of shrimp or crab meat and 4 of 5 hard-boiled eggs coarsely chopped.

Mother had a set of molds that hung on the wall in the kitchen, and Daddy set the aspic in one of the molds -- the fish, I think. Sometimes it unmolded beautifully, sometimes it didn't. Oh well.

Hmmmm. I don't know if I want to try this recipe or not. I'm not sure about that dill pickle thing . . . The shrimp aspic was popular with the family, though, and many still make it. KW

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I WISHED FOR DICKENS . . .


The shops were beautiful with all sorts of gay and clever Christmas displays. The markets were a dream of luscious foods, and I wished for Dickens to describe them for me; turkeys, geese, ducks, fat chickens, beef roasts and cuts of all kinds, hams, bacon, pork roasts and chops, cranberries as big as cherries, bags and baskets of nuts (the biggest walnuts and filberts I ever saw), jars of mincemeat, pies, cakes, and cookies of every sort, baskets filled with the finest fruits, and all wrapped in colored cellophane. I kept falling behind to admire things, while Lynn [Ina's daughter Myrtle] went blithely on her way among the happy people. We got a small young chicken, ripe olives, cranberries, huge filberts, and some holly sprigs to make it complete; all this to be added to our supplies at home. About noon we went into Mannings (tea and coffee importers) who have a fine lunch room and serve their famous coffee. We had Scotch scones and coffee at a little table and rested. Got home about 3:30, tired and happy. I had captured the Christmas spirit which had eluded me for some time past. Ina in Portland, Christmas 1946
I'm not sure Ina needed Dickens to help her. I can picture the holiday scene quite well on what she says. The card shown here was given to Ina by Myrtle the year prior -- Christmas 1945.
Hallie and I were visiting about traditional holiday reunions and how that happens for some families and not for others. Our family seems to have moved on from that experience. The branches of my extended family now celebrate in their various homes, and when it comes to us, just Hallie and Nick join us annually. But, I tell her, if you did want to do something else at Christmas, I would want you to do it and I wouldn't want you to be afraid to tell me. Then she said in substance, as I recall: I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I don't do it for you. I do it for me. That was exactly the right answer, and I give that same reply to those who have expressed appreciation for my advent project here at the "Homestead": It warms my heart that you came and enjoyed, and I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I did it for myself. The bonus was that you came to visit and shared your thoughts.
And the project isn't over. I'm just not finished – that's all there is to it. Though Christmas 2010 has officially passed, we still have ours to celebrate in giving and receiving, playing board games, sharing favorite foods, and planning for next year. I like to get ready for Christmas – and getting ready happens all through the year.
I know my mother reviewed our Christmas celebration and made plans for the coming year, and I found evidence that Ina, too, was planning. Check out this recipe for date cake at the bottom of which she notes, "This for next year."

DATE & NUT CAKE
1 lb. dates cut in pieces
1 lb. walnuts, cut
1 lb. sugar [?]
2 eggs beaten
1 cup flour
salt
vanilla
Mix together. This is quite stiff but o.k.
This for next Christmas.

I think that one pound sugar should be one cup, don't you? Obviously she wrote it in haste. If you want to make date & nut cake, you can probably find a better recipe. KW

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL

[A Hallmark card from open stock, c. 1970]

Friday, December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS! – IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING . . .

Mike and I loaded the Dakota, including Nellie, at the town house, stopped to exchange holiday greetings with neighbors, and headed out to the farm. Arriving unsuspectingly at the farm yard about 10:30 a.m. with visions of a happy Christmas dancing in our heads, we were moving from the Dakota to the house when I heard it – the sound of water gushing at the barn. OH NO!!!! The frost-free spigot at the barn had burst and was pouring the Clearwater River onto the ground as fast as it could. Mental chaos ensued as we tried to think our way through the problem. Turning the water off at the pressure tank was useless. We had to turn off the well at the power box on the utility pole before the gushing stopped, but now we had no water in the house either. "Don't unload the pick-up," advised Mike, "because if we can't solve this problem, we won't be staying."

"Ina did," I wanted to retort, but I knew in my heart he was right. Our outside facilities are now defunct. I can't help but think of Hallie and Nick, who are coming to play. They will be disappointed if they can't have a Christmas celebration at the farm.

Here it is Friday – and Christmas Eve, too. Our attempt to leave a message for a plumber in Orofino was questionably effective, though hours later the call was returned. Mike had many questions before he could get started with the necessary work. "How about Mike Lorenz," I asked. Lorenz was the general contractor when we remodeled the house. Within minutes Mike was talking with Mike, who offered to call a sub-contractor for info and call us back. His response was immediate and helpful, and Mike set to work to dig out the spigot and see if he could cap it. Not fun in 34-degree temperature. Not ever fun anyway. The hole kept filling with water.

Once Mike determined the kind of cap he needed, we wondered where he would get it. I called Builder's Supply in Orofino at 12:35. "We closed at noon," said the voice on the other end of the line. "What can I do for you?" Interesting phraseology: "I'm closed – what can I do for you?" I let Mike explain, and the man at Builder's Supply agreed to wait the half hour it would take for Mike to get to the store. After downing a cup of warm soup he was off for town. The owner had waited for him as agreed. On the way back to the farm, Mike stopped at our neighbor's – a mechanic with most every old tool – and borrowed a pipe wrench which ultimately he didn't use.

By 2:15 the pipe was capped and Mike was unloading the pick-up. "But," I said, breaking the news as gently as possible, "we have no internet."

Now -- I insisted Mike call Clearwater Power on Wednesday to re-up our Wild Blue satellite internet. "Please re-instate it now," I said, "because knowing Clearwater Power, they won't man the office on Thursday since they never work Friday." So Mike put in the request and was assured service had been restored. However, a screen on my laptop was telling me "service has been suspended" with a phone number.

Since we now knew we'd be staying the weekend I called the Wild Blue number on my screen and was advised that my only course of action was to call my contact, Clearwater Power. "But they aren't there," I said. "You mean I have to wait until Monday for service?" Yes. "This is unacceptable," I screeched into my cell phone. "Here I am in a remote locale on Christmas without my connection to my friends." "Sorry," said Ray the Tech. "And Merry Christmas."

So – Mike called the president of Clearwater Power at home and was advised to call the emergency number and ask for Jeremy. Mike made that call, but there was resistance on their end to contacting said Jeremy. "This is what the president of your company said I should do," said Mike firmly. "Please let Jeremy know about this matter and have him call me." There was no follow-up call from Jeremy, and we still had no internet. So Mike called Clearwater Power again and told the service operator that he wanted a call from Jeremy. Subsequently Jeremy did call and said that one in twenty re-ups will fail – hang up in the Wild Blue system -- and such was the case with our request. The situation had been corrected, he said, and now we should re-boot our system. When we did, we had service.

"I need a good hard work-out," said Mike -- off to ride his wind trainer.

It's a Christmas Eve to remember for us, but then aren't they all? Merry Christmas to you all. Love, Kathy
[The first two photos illustrate the blog. The last is a late evening picture of the sun's reflection.]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

PUTTIN' THE PARTY TOGETHER

Aunt [Bertha, Ina’s sister] helped me out by dressing a fat young rooster and bringing it ready for the roaster. She also insisted on making pies since I had my hands full – mince and pumpkin. One of each would be plenty, I said, but no – here came two each and ginger cookies frosted. She’d tried a new recipe. So we had mince and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, ginger cookies, fruit cake and do-nuts, and fruit and whipped cream for that, coffee, oranges, nuts and candy besides the after dinner mints. Well, we just parceled out the leftovers. Mr. Boehm got half of each kind of pie. I believe Mrs. Cordell got a whole pie, some donuts, cookies, and buns. Mr. Boehm also got some of each. Bertha got the remains of the roast, buns and donuts, and this is how we do. It was a good day. Ina Dobson on Christmas 1935

You know, when it came to December 23, my mother would pull an "all-nighter" in order to be ready for the Christmas Eve party. One year I stayed up and helped her. Something inside me said, "It isn't worth this," and to me, it isn't. But if people are coming to your house, you must be ready for them -- with food, gifts, accommodations.

One day as I pondered my mother's ability to pull together this event, I realized she had a lot of help. My dad could be trusted to do something beautiful outside. Nina helped with the baking. Harriet and her husband would arrive early with a cheese ball and help with last-minute details. Joni was a great Santa helper.

CHEESE BALL (Harriet's recipe)
1 jar Roka Blu Kraft spread
1 jar Old English Kraft spread
12-16 ozs. cream cheese
Cheeses should be a room temperature. Blend with spatula or wooden spoon. Chill. Form in one large or two small balls. Roll in chopped nuts. (Substitute any cheese spreads.) As I recall, Harriet often rolled the balls in crushed cereal rather than nuts.


The card here was sent to Ina by Naomi Stinson Long, my maternal great-great-aunt. Yes, she was my Grandmother Nina Portfors' aunt. And she's the lady that insisted on dressing my rag doll, Mopsy. Yes -- all these people knew one another. KW

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PRALINES

I think the best time I ever had working for that especial time was that very first Christmas “on the hill” [Gilbert / Russell Ridge] when those little evergreens inspired me to attempt another something out of nothing and I enlisted Mabel’s interests and we put in all those long, long afternoons and evenings that otherwise would have hung heavy on our hands into doing things for the little folks and you remember how it surprised you when we had come and gone -- tramping thro the snow. Jack had you light the lamp again and together you inspected our handiwork. I think there were some funny-shaped eats in there, too, weren’t there? Well, anyway, it pleased everyone and the way you four Dobsons looked when we presented our trees was pay in plenty. Ida Jane Dickson Patchen on Christmas 1896, written March 5, 1922
PRALINES (Vance's recipe)
Servings: 20
Source of recipe: several
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed
3/4 cup medium heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. water
1/4 cup white Karo
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash salt
1 cup pecan halves
Combine sugars, cream, syrup, water, butter and salt. Cook over medium to low heat to 235. Stir frequently with wooden spoon. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool for 10 minutes. Stir candy briefly and add pecans. Continue to stir but stop before candy loses gloss. This is very iffy. I guess practice makes perfect. -- Dobson. Try using muffin tins and put pecans in first, then spoon candy over. Grease foil or tins with butter.
This recipe is an example of my dad's experimentation. He started altering amounts and methods before he even tried the original. If you want to make pralines, I recommend that you find a recipe in a good cookbook or on trusted website and go from there.
 
The card here is special to me because it was sent to my dad by my maternal grandmother. This was Christmas 1946. My parents were married before Christmas 1947.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

THE FORD FAMILY OF FINE . . . RECIPES

As we became teen-agers, we took an active part in Christmas. My brother and I went out on the hill and brought home a tree. I helped decorate it and we began putting it in a day or two ahead of Christmas Eve. Dorothy Portfors Dobson, c. 1990

My maternal grandfather was in the right place at the right time when he entered a partnership to operate a Ford garage. And when he retired, my uncle and partners continued the business. So, the car my parents drove was always a Ford. I considered myself a member in good standing of "The Ford Family" until I married Mike, who loves Mopars. But let's not digress here.

There was a little magazine for Ford owners called "Ford Times," and my parents had a subscription compliments of Portfors-Johnson Ford. I also remember that it was a pretty good little magazine and my parents read it. The articles were interesting, and each magazine had several recipes from a renowned eating establishment somewhere along the highways of the world. According to Wikipedia, Ford Times was published continually on a monthly basis from April 1908 to 1996.

Mother found her recipe for Praline Ice Cream Pie in a Ford Times magazine and it became a traditional Christmas dessert at our Christmas Eve buffet.Oh yes! We had dessert. Did you think the goodie buffet would be enough for dessert? No, following a buffet of sliced turkey and ham, dressing, rolls, and various salads and side dishes, we had dessert -- usually a variety of pies -- followed by the goodie buffet of holiday cookies, candies, and fruitcake.

PRALINE ICE CREAM PIE
Heat 1/2 cup brown sugar until it reaches the point where it begins to turn brown (darker). Mix with 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1 oz. melted butter. Add 4 oz. (1/2 cup) crushed pecans and 2 tsps. vanilla. In a separate bowl whip 1 1/2 qts. of vanilla ice cream and then mix until well blended with the brown sugar mixture (praline). Place in a deep 9-inch baked pie shell and top with meringue. Brown quickly under broiler.

Mother decided the ice cream pie was just fine without the meringue and didn't bother with it.
 
Here's a card that speaks to an understated Christmas. The warmth of the scene is completely natural -- the snow, the light from the house, the open door. It could almost be a winter note card rather than a Christmas card. Inside the card is unusual, too, with the printed greeting on the left and the plain page on the right. I don't believe I've ever seen that before. KW

Monday, December 20, 2010

DONUTS

Well, to continue and go on, after one late dinner I made donuts for I must have fresh donuts for Christmas, and you know “do-nuts and coffee never hurt anyone.” Ina Dobson on Christmas 1934


She must have donuts for Christmas, says Ina. But I couldn't find her recipe, so while at the farm I went through her recipe box and came up with two. 

RAISED DOUGHNUTS
1 cup yeast mixture
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (ample)
2 eggs
cinnamon
Don't mix as stiff as bread but let rise just the same as bread. Raise once, knead down, raise again, cut and let them raise amply twice their size. Put upper side down to cook first.


DOUGHNUTS (written in Drain, Oregon, on March 2, 1951, while Ina was visiting relatives)
1 cup sugar
butter the size of a walnut
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sweet milk
2 eggs
4 cups flour
3 heaping tsps baking powder
Flavor to taste.
And -- that's all she wrote.


I have a faint memory of my parents making doughnuts in a deep fryer when I was a very little girl. I can even remember how the doughnuts tasted. But they gave it up early and I don't know why, except for all the reasons we know: fried foods aren't good for you; the aroma lingers in your house and becomes stale; frying leaves a residue on the walls that eventually becomes dinginess. I think all of that is reason enough not to fry. It seems like Mother said the fat has to be really hot or it absorbs into the dough, and I think that's why my parents quit using their deep fat fryer.

I also reviewed my maternal grandmother's recipe boxes and found recipes for doughnuts. I mentioned to Mike that back in the day, people must have made doughnuts. He agreed, saying that he remembered his mother making doughnuts occasionally when he was very young.

I recall that Ina sent doughnuts to Vance at Christmas when he was in basic training. To tell you the truth, I couldn't imagine that they were good. Doughnuts must be fresh. 

Sorry -- I couldn't find a single Currier and Ives print amongst the collection. The candles continue. KW

'TWAS THE WEEKEND BEFORE CHRISTMAS . . .

I probably should have said that Mike and I were going to the farm for the weekend. Ordinarily a trip to the farm doesn't interupt my internet time, but one of us didn't think to have it connected until it was too late (they don't work Friday) and the other of us forgot that we'd had it disconnected in the first place.

We had no trouble getting into the house. The lane was just a little slippery at the top. As we went about our individual chores, Mike spotted the herd of mule deer walking the crest of the hill to the south. You can see a large buck in the center of the picture.


Saturday night there was a skiff of snow dressing the pines in feathery white.
Here's Nellie -- and you can see that the snow doesn't quite cover the ground.
A testament to bad housekeeping, the spider webs on the front porch are nevertheless lovely when covered with frost.
We awoke at 7:00 this morning (Monday) to six inches of new snow. In fact, we could see the county grader just turning around at the lane. Mike wished that he would come on up the lane, but in these days of government cutbacks, there are no favors.

Meanwhile, I scurried out in my robe and slippers to take a picture of the backyard.
Here's a "snow" picture of the house taken this morning. If you look closely at the second story windows, you might be able to make out the bottle brush  wreaths. They aren't as effective as I had imagined they would be. They're pretty inside, though.

Mike wanted to play in the snow, so we took our little plastic sled and went out to coast on "June's place." I made one run, and that was enough.
After several runs, Mike went in for a motorcycle helmet to keep the snow spray out of his face. Here's a picture of him -- ready for the next run. After each run, I'd drive the 4-wheeler down the hill to pick him up and pull the sled back to the top. To someone who grew up walking back up the hill, it seems like cheating. Once we'd had our hour of fun, we loaded up and headed back to town. Gilbert Grade was snow-covered and slick. Orofino streets were also slick and treacherous.

Driving Hwy 12 along the Clearwater River, Mike and I discussed that it's been years since we've seen that road in such snowy condition. Generally the highways are clear even when it snows. And here's a photo of the town house covered in about four inches of snow. Temperature has dropped from 32 to 30 at this writing, making wet, snowy streets slick.

So -- there you have it -- a real time catch-up. KW

Friday, December 17, 2010

DELUXE SUGAR COOKIES

“Your holly and candles were a treat and have served more than once. I have about half of the candles left on the mantel. They are such a pretty red. You do think of the nicest things! I suppose that is what is called ‘having an imagination.’ Well, thanks a lot for everything – the card with its message was doubly appreciated. Ina Dobson to her son, Vance, at Christmas 1935


Frosted sugar or ginger cookies are my favorite traditional Christmas cookie. I always thought I would eventually grow up and Swedish spritz would be my favorite, but no, I still like frosted shapes. I've sought long and hard for the ultimate frosted sugar cookie recipe. Maybe you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe in your files that you would share with me.


Here's the recipe my half-sister, Joni, used to bring it to Christmas baking sessions. You can find it in Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1969.

DELUXE SUGAR COOKIES
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
Mixed thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Blend in flour, soda, and cream of tartar. Cover. Chill 2-3 hours.
Heat oven to 375. Divide dough in half. Roll each half 3/16" thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into shapes. Decorate with colored sugar (or frost after baking). Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until lightly brown on edges.

I like to frost my cut-out cookies and decorate simply with red hots, colored sugar, and marshmallows. But Mother and Nina piped the frosting onto the cookies. They spent hours working over those cookies, and they were charming. Well, you know how I feel about all that fuss over something that's gone in two or three bites, but they took a lot of pride in it. KW

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SWEDISH TEA RINGS

We used the holly and silvered sprays in the decorations. The holly makes the very prettiest I think. We used the silvered bull [pine] sprigs of last year again as a centerpiece and the candles. They are so festive; we burned them all evening. We used up one pair of white ones and part of one short pair of red ones and greatly diminished the tall red ones. Ralph remembered how last Xmas you had said to light the candles to eat by and thus you’d be blessing us as we dined. After the dinner Shirley reduced the table to a round, removed the decorations, added candy, nuts, and fruit and fresh candles. Ina Dobson on Christmas 1937

My Grandfather Portfors, my mother's father, was a Swede. He immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 in 1891. But we know nothing about our Swedish heritage. Grandpa's goal was to assimilate the American culture as quickly as possible. He wanted to be American, not Swedish. With the exception of a few childhood anecdotes, we know nothing about his life in Sweden. If Mother had a burning interest in Swedish traditional foods -- you know, like Swedish spritz and Swedish tea rings, she didn't say so in my hearing. I think they were just the popular traditions of the era.

One day early in December, Mother would make her Swedish tea rings for Christmas morning. There would be two of them -- one was cinnamon raisin and the other holiday fruit. She baked and then froze them for warming Christmas morning. 
 
I found an old recipe card for Swedish tea rings in handwriting I don't recognize. I also found recipes in Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book and Meta Givens' Encyclopedia of Cooking. I decided not to post such an involved recipe. We're all busy in real time, right?

Oh -- and on Christmas morning my mother set out her tea rings for early risers, but my dad served biscuits, eggs and bacon.

The card: Candle centerpieces were apparently a popular card theme. Are candles still important? KW

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DIVINITY

Oh, yes, I, too, read A Christmas Carol. It was reprinted in Coronet magazine and I found I had forgotten most of it. Vance Dobson, December 27, 1942
I've written about divinity before and was going to omit it from this series, but divinity was as important to my mother as -- well, as all the other traditional goodies. She loved to make it as much as she loved to eat it. 
 NINA'S DIVINITY RECIPE (double batch)
4 medium egg whites
4 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
Blend in saucepan sugar, corn syrup, water. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, then cook to 255 on candy thermometer. In the meantime, beat egg whites until stiff. Pour hot syrup in fine stream into egg whites while continuing to beat. Add vanilla. When mixture becomes too heavy for beaters, stir with a wooden spoon until it loses its gloss and begins to set. Working quickly, drop divinity onto waxed paper by teaspoonfuls.
Mother was a practiced divinity-maker, but someplace along the line -- about 1960 -- she lost the knack. The divinity failed to set in lovely little mounds, spreading into flat circles. It was Nina who said, "Mother! Look at your eggs. They're huge! That's what's wrong with your divinity." And it was true. The folks had changed "egg ladies" and the eggs were suddenly much larger. And that just illustrates why old recipes sometimes don't work for us. Ingredients can change over time. 

A little foil edging sets off this old Christmas card. KW

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FRUIT SALAD


Well, I’m so bedeviled and bemused with everything around here that this evening I trimmed the Aladdin lamp on the library table [in the living room], then finding no matches on the mantel went to the kitchen, took one, lit it, and carried it carefully back to the living room. When I came to, I was so tickled over my own foolishness that I nearly blew out the lamp. I was laughing and I get silly every time I think of it. I mean all this Xmas packing, sorting, carding, lettering, mailing, etc., etc. Ina Dobson, 12-19-35

I thought maybe we could use a break from all the super sweet stuff. Here's the recipe for "Joni's Fruit Salad," which she brought to the Christmas Eve Buffet for many years.
JONI'S FRUIT SALAD
pineapple chunks
bananas
strawberries (fresh), optional
mandarin oranges
Drain pineapple and mandarin oranges. To the juice, add 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1 beaten egg, and 1 T cornstarch. Cook 'til thickened. Add 1 Tbsp butter. Cool before dressing the fruit.

Mother loved fruit salad, but it bothered her that this dressing contained an egg. So, she developed the following fruit salad dressing:

DOROTHY'S FRUIT SALAD DRESSING
1/2 cup sugar
1 T cornstarch (or 2 T flour)
1 T butter
1 1/2 T lemon juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice (boiling)
Mix sugar and cornstarch. Add juice gradually, stirring constantly. Boil slowly 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter.

Here's another unsigned, probably un-used Christmas card from my dad's box. I think back in the day cards were more readily available in assortments. Sending cards was a thoughtful process of choosing the right card for the right people. KW

Monday, December 13, 2010

VANILLA FUDGE


The moon was shining in brightly and lighting the tree and everything else in sight. Ina Dobson on Christmas Eve, 1932

Of all the considerable goodies my parents prepared for the holidays, my favorite was "vanilla fudge," but I can't find the recipe. Someplace along the line, Daddy quit making it. I don't remember any discussion about it, and obviously I never asked him.

But yesterday -- after all these years of searching and thinking -- it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the vanilla fudge was just the chocolate fudge without the chocolate. That might explain why Mother omitted the chocolate on one of the recipe cards. Daddy later wrote in "2 sq. chocolate."


What do you think? Would I dare invest the time and ingredients to test this theory? I remember that the method was the same -- the stirring, the kneading, the rolling of the fudge into two logs, which he then sliced.

Both Mother and Daddy were recipe clippers. For many years my dad didn't have a recipe box of his own. He relied on Mother to save clippings or write out recipes and file them. I remember when she gifted him with his own recipe box -- probably in the '70s. When our son Clint left home and began asking for recipes, I removed the contents of Daddy's recipe box and gave it to him.

I like this red Christmas card, and the scan is as interesting as the actual card. The card takes on different characteristics as it's moved in the light, and I get somewhat the same effect with the monitor. As you can see, the card was sent by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McCoy. Charlie grew up in Little Canyon below our homestead and was a childhood friend of my dad and his siblings. Leah will recognize his name from her genealogy research. Her grandfather was married to Charlie's mother.  KW