Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving: The Understated Holiday

Too cute! Rubber duckies for Thanksgiving!
If it wasn't for the food, Thanksgiving would kind of be a sad holiday. Surrounded on both sides by the more glitzy Halloween and Christmas, it stands alone as a sort of quiet day to get together with family and friends and basically eat.


When we were little, the Macy's parade on TV was the highlight of Thanksgiving Day. To get a preview of the Radio City Rockettes and Santa before we actually saw them in person was thrilling for me and my siblings. Miracle on 34th Street was always on on Thanksgiving and of course the football games. My mother in the kitchen basting the turkey, lots of mashed potatoes and gravy, pies and maybe a 'Shirley Temple' made by my father if he wasn't working that day are all childhood memories. We were always 'dressed' for the holiday even if we were just having my grandmother over. Christmas decorations didn't dare appear until the turkey was being served as leftovers.  That was then.


Let me describe more recent Thanksgivings. My children were never into the Macy'sparade. If they were even awake, I'd stand by the TV in anticipation of Santa, trying to gin up some feverish excitement and usually I'd just get the 'look.' They liked Miracle on 34th Street but once it came out on DVD watching it on Thanksgiving became less of a tradition. Football? Ugh!! 


Wilton cookie cutters for fall. 
Truthfully, I've made very few Thanksgiving dinners in my married life, My husband's parents had a beautiful home in the Poconos and more often than not we went there for the weekend. With their passing, my sister-in-law in Delaware has inherited the holiday and my married children spend it with their in-laws.


One year we had a major crisis that involved my youngest daughter. She and her friends are totally into the 'Black Friday' thing. Getting up at 3 am to stand outside Target had become her tradition and reason not to accompany us to Delaware for the day. This particular year, we accidentally let our subscription to our local paper expire. We received a frantic phone call (damn the cell phone!) during dinner: there were no circulars, no coupons, no information about early bird specials! Emergency phone calls were made and we found a friend who hadn't thrown out the paper with the giblets and was willing to part with the circulars. The times, they were a changin'.


Now with grandchildren, I was trying to find something symbolic of Thanksgiving appropriate for their age. I located Wilton cookie cutters in the shapes of leaves and an acorn and I made a couple of dozen cut-out cookies decorated with royal frosting. Who doesn't love a cookie? On a recent trip out to Greenport, Long Island, I discovered tiny rubber duckies in Thanksgiving dress. A perfect gift for new grandchildren of some friends. A few neighbors actually put out those inflatable turkeys. But really, Thanksgiving is quiet and dull and maybe it should be. After all, the Christmas music is already playing, the stores have been decorated for weeks and a new batch of shopping circulars are being stuffed into newspapers as we speak. 


Enjoy the holiday, eat, take a walk and revel in the quietness. It won't last long. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

President Kennedy's Funeral: My Family's Brush With History

'Time it was, and what a time it was, it was 
A time of innocence, a time of confidences 
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph 
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.'

from 'Bookends' by Simon and Garfunkle




The caisson carrying President Kennedy.
What I am about to write will reveal my true age to those of you who care to do the math, but this is not the historical moment of which I speak. Tomorrow is the 47th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. To those of you reading who weren't born yet, (and yes, I do hate you!) this event was the Pearl Harbor or the 9-11 of the baby boomer generation. Like those other occurrences, anyone who was alive during that sad time in our history will forever remember where they were and how they heard of the murder of the President of the United States in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.




Charles deGaulle  (see yellow arrow) processing down
Connecticut Avenue.
I was in the 8th grade in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Lindenhurst. Long Island where my family lived. The principal made an announcement on the public address system and asked everyone say a prayer. When we left school for the day, our bus driver had on the radio and told us what happened. Now my parents were serious Kennedyphiles, as was I, and I knew before I arrived home that we were in for a serious and sad weekend. And I was right. We were glued to our television that day, Saturday and Sunday and read every newspaper we could. Afterwards we cut out the photos and stories for a scrapbook. 


On Sunday evening, my father surprised my sister and I with the announcement that he would take us to Washington by train the following day (November 25th) for the funeral. My father was a yardmaster for the Pennsylvania Railroad and as such we were entitled to free rail transportation. It was hard not to be excited about such a serious event but I was barely able to sleep that night. 


The next morning, long before most people were awake, we boarded the Long Island Railroad for the trip to Penn Station where we would take the 'Washingtonian' to Union Station in our nation's capital. It was very cold and we bundled up as best we could for we would spend most of the day outdoors. 


Actually, I remember just a little from that day. I can't remember if we ate anywhere or if we took a cab or walked (I'm guessing we walked and ate very little) but I do remember standing in a car lot across from St. Matthew's Cathedral where the service was being held. The church was red brick and even though we were close, we didn't see very much. After the Mass, we moved to the sidewalk on Connecticut Avenue where the funeral procession was to pass. It was quiet and my father pointed out people and things as he took some photos. 


Limousine carrying Kennedy children. 
A limousine passed and we saw a young Kennedy child with a white bow in her hair. A group of distinguished men passed by and my father pointed out a very tall gentleman who was Charles deGaulle, the President of France.Then the body of President passed by in an open horse drawn caisson. 


I found my fathers photos this week as I started to scan twenty-five years worth of family memories and I'd like to share them this day on my blog. The men standing streetside in the photos look every bit like the characters in the popular TV show 'Mad Men' as do the stores that can be seen from across the street where we stood.' As the above song says: 'It was a time.'


St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington D.C.
I'll be forever grateful for my parents for giving me the opportunity to be at such an important event. They were great at doing things like that and my brothers, sisters and I benefited greatly from their 'ahead-of-their-time creative parenting.'  Did I ever mention the time my parents took us to a convent to see General Montcalm's skull?






I'll save that for another time..............






Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Cannoli Conundrum

When I took a recent cooking class dessert was homemade cannoli. I'm not a big fan but being a good sport I ate the offered pastry..and I really enjoyed it. I decided to make the cannoli cream on my own choosing to purchase the shells from a nearby store  - after all, the pastry chef made it look so easy! 


Just a few ingredients and about 5 minutes and I'd be done. I checked the recipe given to us that evening with online recipes as I usually do and they were amazingly the same. My first effort (note the word first)
was a disaster. The ricotta cheese and powdered sugar mixed well but as it sat for a few minutes while I  retrieved the pastry bag, it started to get watery. So I froze the mix.


Second effort: I unfroze the cream just enough to get it through the pastry bag but as I piped it into the cannoli shell it again turned to mush. I decided to toss the whole thing and try another day.


Meanwhile, I heard rumblings that the ricotta cheese needed to be drained though I wondered why it was never mentioned any of the directions I read.  My next time out, I drained the cheese between two sheets of paper towling for two days. 


Today I began attempt number three with the (hopefully) dried ricotta cheese. I added the sugar, vanilla and chocolate chips.. The mixture was solid enough to pipe into the cannoli shell and I quickly photographed the lot. But it seemed as if the cream was dissolving again, not as much, but not like ones purchased in a bakery. So I froze them again!


I'll serve the cannolis this weekend but I'm convinced there's a step missing...will check further and try again. After all, Christmas Eve is still a month away and I have enough time to perfect my cannoli to impress family and friends!


Here's the recipe:

Cannoli Cream

Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups ricotta cheese
cannoli shells

Directions
  • In a large bowl combine all ingredients together.
  • Place the filling in a ziplock bag.
  • Chill the filling for 30 minutes.
  • Cut a corner off the bag and pipe the filling into cannoli shells.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place maraschino cherries on the ends

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So You Have A Lot of Slides?

Back in the late 1950s my father bought a camera. It was a German made Retina, manufactured by Kodak in Stuttgart, Germany, and quite advanced for our family of modest means. My father must have known what he was doing back then because the camera served us well and chronicled every aspect of our lives through the 1980s.


The Retina used slide film and prints could be made from the slides via mail (a laborious process!)  but the slides and screen became an important family activity when we'd gather around the projector (listening to my father mutter under his breath when slides got stuck) for an hour's worth of visual entertainment.


When my parents switched to a more modern camera and print film, the slides were carefully packed away, organized by year and event in brown plastic slide boxes. My mother passed away this summer and my sisters and I vowed to go through the boxes and pull out the slides we'd like to keep and put them together in the popular photo books available online. A daunting task because there are hundreds!


Two years ago, I purchased a slide scanner on the advice of colleagues at work, The one I chose was The Wolverine FD2 (see link below) which retails around $110.00 online. The process is simple and fast. Four slides get placed in a hard plastic sleeve. The sleeve gets pushed through the scanners by hand pausing for a second to make a scan of the slide. The high quality scans are recorded on a memory card which then can be uploaded right onto your computer.




The scanner is small and this process can be done while watching TV...very appealing to me!. And so the scanning begins...ironically, my husband's father also took slides and another giant batch awaits when 
my family slides are done! 
http://secure.serverlab.net/shop/merchant.mvc?Category_Code=F2D&Product_Code=F2D200&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=T00107

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long Island Wineries

The tasting room at Pindar Vineyards


Growing up on Long Island, we were always aware that it was shaped like a fish and the small town we lived in was located in the lower middle of the belly. The two tails of our 'fish' were colloquially called the 'South Fork' and the 'North Fork' branching out east from the town of Riverhead and they were about as different as any two communities could be. The South Fork popularly known as the Hamptons had great beaches, fabulous restaurants, trendy stores and the fanciest houses we had ever seen. That was back in the 60s and 70s and is even more so today. The north fork was rural, loaded with potato farms and not much else back then.

About 25 years ago, the potato farms began to be replaced with vineyards. It was discovered that the climate, sandwiched between the Long Island Sound to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south (with the Peconic Bay in between), produced  a maritime climate and soil conditions similar to that of the Bordeaux region of France and was ideally suited to the growing of grapes and the production of wines of exceptional quality.

And so the Long Island Wine region was begun slowly and quietly at first but burgeoning into 37 wineries with 35 tasting rooms open to the public. There are 29 wineries on the North Fork and 3 on the South Fork.
It has been said by many that Long Island is one of the country's most exciting wine producing regions today, with great reviews and high praise found in major food and wine publications nationwide. As the awards continue to accumulate, Long Island wines are increasingly sought after in fine restaurants and wine shops from coast to coast.
My husband and I are fans of Long Island wine and of one in particular: Pindar. Pindar Vineyards are located along Route 25 in Peconic and comprise over 500 acres of vines. They produce 70,000 cases of wine each year with 23 varieties and blends. Pindar is a family owned business and we've been going there once or twice a year to do a tasting, and stock up on our favorite Cabernet. We went this weekend with some friends and enjoyed a beautiful, unusually warm November day taking in the late autumn beauty of Long Islands east end.

I'll direct you to some websites at the end of this post but will recommend a couple of places to visit.The town of Greenport is charming and the acclaimed and well-known restaurant Claudio's is a must-do. Another recommended restaurant is the 'Modern Snack Bar'  in Aquebogue, an anomaly since it's anything but modern! However,  the food is great, inexpensive and you can even take home of some of their delicious pies and mashed potatoes. The Modern Snack Bar closes after Thanksgiving and reopens in the spring.

The trip takes about 1.5 hours from New York City to Riverhead and about another 40 minutes or so, depending on traffic, to Greenport. The wineries dot the roadsides from Riverhead to Greenport. Also along the way are local farm stands, nurseries and a charming tea shop on Sound Avenue in Jamesport.

REFERENCE: 
  • http://www.liwines.com/default.ihtml?page=vineyards&subpage=frequentquestions
  • http://www.pindar.net/?q=aboutus
  • http://www.loving-long-island.com/tea-time-cottage.html

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Rescue or Update an Investment Sweater

BEFORE: The neckline was ripped!
I rarely shop in Bloomingdale's, I'm more of a Macy's girl. I guess I've always considered Bloomingdale's just a bit more 'uppercrust' then I view myself though it's probably an unjustified assumption of the store on my part. Truthfully, when I worked in the city, I was never located in Bloomingdale's neighborhood and was probably never motivated enough to go out of my way to shop there. Macy's has always had lots of great sales!


Being on Staten Island, the closest Bloomingdale's is located in the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. This is a fantastic mall but I only shop there once or twice a year usually around Christmas. On one of my rare visits, I splurged and purchased a Bloomingdale's classic charcoal gray cardigan. It wasn't cashmere but 100% merino wool and based on the price I paid I thought it would last for years. By the second winter of its life, the neck band was unravelling and I actually had a moth hole in the sleeve near the cuff! Of course it was too old to return it so I put it away until I thought of a clever way to revive my sweater.


This winter season, fur is a must in any fashionable wardrobe and that gave me an idea on how to fix up my purchase. I thought if I could find a thin fur strip, I could hand sew the fur onto the neckline, cut the cuffs off and trim the now three-quarter length sleeve edge with the fur. I went to my favorite trimming store (M&J Trimmings in Manhattan at 6th Ave and 37th Street). The fur was about $25,00 a yard, certainly more than I wanted to spend. I opted for much cheaper trim ($5.99 a yard) found in JoAnn's Fabric store on Staten Island. They didn't have gray but black would work just as well.

AFTER: Fur strip hides the defect 
and dresses up my sweater!
See my before and after photos. I used a light elastic on the sleeve ends to make sure that the sleeves were able to be scrunched up. You can also change out buttons on any sweater to give it a new fresh look. Substitute rhinestone or pearl buttons for plain ones. I decided that I liked mother of pearl style buttons that came with my seriously compromised sweater, The fur looks great (actually much better than my photo) and I look forward to wearing it this holiday season. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pappardelle With Shrimp and Mushrooms: Cooking Class, Part 2

When my friends and I took a cooking class at a local Italian restaurant almost a month ago, my intentions to recreate some of the courses was high on my 'to-do' list. Truthfully though, these entrees are 'company' material and we just haven't had any visitors recently. A week or two ago I shared our appetizer which was Crostini Polenta. The next course was homemade pappardelle with porcini and shiitake mushrooms and grilled shrimp: truly a delicious offering. 

Pappardelle is a wide, thick noodle derived from the verb “pappare,” to gobble up. This traditional noodle is a cousin to the smaller tagliatelle and is so popular that in Italy there are towns that have festivals honoring it. 

The chef made homemade pappardelle which took a good portion of the class but unless you are adept at pasta-making, I recommend purchasing an imported commercial pappardelle perhaps in an Italian salumeria. The rest of the dish is fairly quick and easy and you'll be in for a gastronomic treat should you choose to try making this.

Fresh porcini and shiitake mushrooms (remove stems) were used but dried will work as well. The mushrooms will ultimately be topped with grilled shrimp (still in the shell but easily removed. The chef pointed out that the extra work involved in removing the shell is worth it because it saves the shrimp from shrinking, something I didn't know!

Ingredients
(For six people)
1 pound pappardelle
12 jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
6 fresh porcini mushrooms or 2 packets dried porchini
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 cup dry white wine
I teaspoon marjoram
fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil


Directions:
  • Slice mushrooms thinly
  • Chop garlic and toss lightly in fry pan on with 3 tablespoons olive oil, medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and salt and pepper
  • Add wine and fresh chopped parsley.
  • If you used dried porcini mushrooms add juice from hydration.
  • For Shrimp:
  • Add a tablespoon of chopped garlic into 2 tablespoons olive oil, medium heat.
  • Add 1 tablespoon marjoram
  • Add salt and pepper and more olive oil if needed
  • Butterfly shrimp, retaining shell.
  • Place face down in frying pan and cook until pink.
When pasta is cooked al dente, add mushroom mixture to top of portion, then two shrimp per plate.
Top with shaved  Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recycling The Plastic Container

The final product!
This craft is so easy a caveman could do it! Where have I heard that before.....?


I've been saving large plastic containers that previously held pretzel sticks, nuts and animal crackers. These are nice sized covered jars and it seems a shame to just toss them away. I saw something in a home craft magazine that was a variation of this using glass canning jars which have a two part lid. In that craft, the jars were used to hold a home sewing kit and the lid was covered in much the same way as I will explain below but padded so that the lid did double duty as a pin cushion. Pretty clever!


Start with a container like this.
I didn't have any canning jars available so I'm using the aforementioned plastic containers. 


Supplies: 

  • Any plastic container with a screw-on lid
  • 10" fabric square (approximately, for one jar lid)
  • Tacky glue sold in craft stores
  • 1/2 yard of ribbon for sides and bow (measure width to size of jar lid)
  • Other decorations are optional



Directions:

  • Remove the lid and on the reverse side of a small piece of fabric, trace a circle using the lid as a template. Cut fabric 1/4 inch larger and make slit marks from the cut edge to the pencil line all the way around about every 1/2 inch.
  • Using tacky craft glue, apply a thick line of glue all the way around.
  • Position the fabric over the plastic lid and  press slit sides to the plastic lid. (This will take a few minutes, keep working the fabric glue and re-stick if it still pops up) Note: the glue will dry clear so don't worry if it's a bit messy looking.
  • Cut a length of coordinating ribbon (satin o grosgrain work well) and adhere to the side of the lid. Make sure the ribbon is wide enough to cover sides.
  • When dry, make a small bow and glue that to the front of lid. Use other decorations (buttons, sequins, rhinestones) if you want to enhance further.
  • When you decide what the contents will be, make a label on your computer in similar colors for the side of the plastic jar.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Painting Using 'Used' Canvases

Step one: Purchase a reduced stretched canvas.
In my early artist days I loved to paint. Once computers came into their own and I learned how to create electronic art, I veered away from actually putting brush to canvas. I had a family by then and the price of oils or acrylics (my choice), brushes and the stretched canvas itself became a luxury I couldn't afford.


Even today, with the kids all grown, I still balk at the price of some of the items necessary to create a painting. That is until I thought of a clever idea!


I like to shop in HomeGoods (seriously, who doesn't?) and one day, browsing the clearance racks, I found a painting on stretched canvas that was reduced. I'm not really sure why ( I suppose it just didn't sell)  but I thought that if I painted over the original painting with 'kill' paint, I would have an inexpensive blank canvas to do my own painting. The benefit of doing this is to get a nice sized canvas that would probably cost twice as much in an art supply store. In this case the canvas was 2 ft. x 4 ft., a size that fit a spot in my kitchen perfectly.


Step two: Paint canvas with kill paint 
and sketch the new illustration


Step three: Have an unveling 
for your new masterpiece!
My subject was going to be a fun portrait of our cat Buster who died earlier this year. The kitchen was his haunt and we wanted to create a memory in the room he loved the best. After the canvas was painted white, I sketched the illustration and painted it using acrylics and colors that compliment the kitchen decor. 

Buster is back and I saved a lot of money!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Biscuits: Autumn's Ultimate Comfort Food

I've been making a lot of soup lately and love doing it, but for a long while I've wanted to make my own biscuits as an accompaniment but put it off until today. My mother used to make biscuits regularly and I always remember how pleasing they were,  warm and fragrant from the oven. Why did I never make them for my family?


I came across an article in a magazine with several recipes for biscuits and I suppose that that and the cold, nasty weather we had in New York today, was all the impetus I needed to start baking. Biscuits are not only used for soup or other dinner entrees but can also be used for breakfast with egg and bacon, butter or jam. Yum!


Biscuits are really quite easy and can be changed up in a variety of ways. I'm posting a basic recipe that was seriously delicious but will list some other variations hat you might want to try.


Basic Biscuits
Makes 6-8


Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream (variation: buttermilk or 2% milk)


Directions: 
  • Preheat over to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar)
  • Add butter (cut into small pieces) and using pastry blender, cut butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add the cream (or other variations) until dough comes together.
  • Place on lightly floured surface knead and roll out to a one inch thickness.
  • Use a 2.5 inch round biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits
Bake for 20 minutes until tops turn light brown.


My optional topping: 
I added 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, 1.2 tablespoon parsley.
Brush tops of biscuits with oil mixture

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Easy Christmas Breakfast: A Make-Ahead Egg Casserole

We were invited to our friends' house this weekend in upstate New York. About two and a half hours north of New York City, we encountered beautiful countryside, mountains, rivers and streams and though most of the leaves had changed by this time there was enough natural beauty to appease the most disappointed  'leaf-peeper' in the group.


Our host and hostess are skilled entertainers and served us delicious meals with an ease and efficiency that made us forget that we were all watching our weight in anticipation of the holidays.


Saturday breakfast was a delightful affair starting with challah bread french toast, fruit, bacon,  a multitude of fresh pastries and a one-dish egg scramble that was assembled a day ahead. It is this entree that is the subject of today's blog post.


If you celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve like my family does..this recipe is for you! The casserole that follows easily feeds about 10 people and can be put together the night before for an easy and satisfying  pop-into-the-oven breakfast on Christmas morning. I've read and made variations of this recipe and will include them so you can decide how to proceed but in any form, 'Fancy Egg Scramble' is almost fool proof. 


Fancy Egg Scramble
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 tablespoon pepper
2 cups milk (or 2 cups light cream)
1 and a half cups shredded American cheese (or cubed cheddar cheese)
1 cup diced Canadian bacon (or diced ham)
1/4 cup chopped onion
16 large eggs


 FOR TOPPING
(variation: Instead of topping: Add 2 cups cubed day old Italian bread to egg mix)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon paprika


Directions:
  • In fry pan combine butter, onion, flour, salt and pepper until onions are translucent.
  • Remove from heat and in large bowl, add milk, cheese and eggs whisking them together.
  • Add bacon (and/or bread if you choose)
  • For topping: Saute butter and breadcrumbs until moistened.
  • Pour egg mixture into buttered rectangular baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes checking for a lightly browned top and inserting a knife to make sure the eggs are cooked.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Political Speak: Words to Vote By

At the end of this political season, here's a few words we've probably heard over the last couple of months/weeks/days. These all appeared in today's New York Times. See how you do.


intransigence
a. unable to travel 
b. inflexible
c. uneducated
d. not hospitable


apolitical
a. not political
b. one who runs for political office
c. kind of a map
4. expressing regret


fundamentalism
a. investment strategy
b, easy to understand instructions
c. religious movement
d. getting back to basics


coalescing
a. growing together
b. living together
c. mining carbon
d. respecting natural resources


fusty
a. party-pooper
b. irritating personality trait
c. braggart
d. musty


probity
a. political investigation
b. serious discussion
c. honesty
d. sure thing




ANSWERS: 

Intransigence
 b. inflexible: refusing to agree or compromise; uncompromising.

apolitical
a. not political: of no political significance.

fundamentalism
c. religious movement: a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism and that stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming.

coalescing
a. growing together: into one body

fusty
d. musty: having a stale smell; moldy.

probity


c. honesty: Integrity and uprightness.




Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Christmas Stockings: Creating Family Heirlooms

Stocking detail: the small dots are sequin indicators.
When my three children were born, my sister-in-law made personalized stockings for each of their first Christmases. These stockings (which incidently stood the test of time) were made from felt kits, lavishly decorated with sequins, pom-poms and ribbons and have become a happy and nostalgic part of our Christmas decor. When my first two children married, I decided to continue the tradition by making similar stockings for my son and daughter-in-law. Not a problem. The kits come with complete detailed instructions, all of the supplies including needles and can be done by hand.


Then happily came the grandchildren. Sewing  a stocking for the first, 5 years ago, didn't present a problem but the second, two years after was the beginning of my sorry backlog because by then my hours at work had changed and my sewing time became limited. Also, feeling guilty, I had decided to make one for my husband as well and two in one year was one too many.  They're really not hard to make but procrastination is sometimes my middle name. Then my daughter and son-in-law had twins!
My future project! Christmas 2015!


We have friends who are nice enough to invite us to their country home a couple of times a year  Our hostess is a knitter as are the other invited guests (and I'm not) so I decided to take along my stockings to work on as we gab, gossip and eat and eat and eat! My progress was slow (did I mention the wine?) but as this Christmas holiday approaches, I'm within sight of completing the last of the stockings (they're all sequin-ready) and as luck would have it, we're headed for the country this weekend. 


If you're looking for a project or to start a heirloom collection for your family, I recommend these stockings. The kits are available online (some are better than others and price is usually the indicator of quality) and you really don't have to be serious sewer. 


Not wanting to leave myself out, I purchased a very complicated "Nutcracker Suite' themed stocking but I am vowing not to start it until the grandchildren and husband stockings are completed. Some websites follow where the stocking can be purchased.  2015 or bust!



  • http://www.anitasarts.com/bucilla-needle-crafts-felt-applique-c-17_18.html

  • http://www.bucillachristmasstockingkits.org/

  • http://www.plaidcraftexpress.com/dept/Christmas+Stockings.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&keyword=g+felt+christmas+stocking+b&gclid=COC4nuCahqUCFYpa2god01dyPg

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

'When The Frost Is On The Punkin...'

James Whitcomb Riley by John Singer Sargent
In my junior year of high school, New York State required all students to take an English Regent to test our proficiency in the subject. One section of the exam was recognizing and completing lines of poetry and we spent the better part of the year reading and memorizing whole stanzas, lines and authors. My third year English teacher was a nun, Sister Michele, and she drilled us so well that to this day I can recite parts and in some cases entire  poems that were part of the curriculum.


Around this time of the year, I always think of the poem 'When the Frost is on The Punkin' by James Whitcomb Riley. I liked it back then and still do because the imagery of the words painted such a realistic picture in my mind of a Midwest farm complete with corn-husky dialect in the days before winter set in, so unlike the area and people where I was growing up on Long Island.


What I didn't know was that this poem had a story, one that's meaningful today. A story of this poet as a  young man with a dream and the tenacity to follow it despite misdirection, setbacks and parental disapproval but ultimately a story of a chance event that changed the course of his life. This is from jameswhitcombriley.com
There is an interesting incident about how Riley’s job was once saved because he had written “When the Frost Is On the Punkin, and the Fodder’s In the Shock.”  It is in a book written by Riley’s friend John A. Howland entitled, “James Whitcomb Riley: Prose and Pictures.”
     Riley, as a young Greenfield man, had had a hard time finding a niche in the world since he did not care to follow his father in the practice of law.  He sold Bibles, painted signs, entertained in a medicine show, always coming to a dead end.  His mother died in 1870 and he felt he could not bear to stay in Greenfield so he went here and there seeking newspaper employment.  He ran into E.B. Martindale of "The Indianapolis Journal" whom he later called, “my first literary patron,” who added him to the staff of the paper to write poetry.  Some of these poems appeared on the first page of the Journal under the nom de plume “Benjamin F. Johnson of Boone,” supposedly an old farmer.  As they were well received, Riley emerged from under his disguise, writing poems such as “When the Frost is on the Punkin.”
     In a short while after Riley joined the paper, a gentleman named Halford was appointed manager of the Journal.  One of his first ideas was to cut down on expenses of the paper, and he was considering Riley as his first victim to get the ax.  It so happened that a political convention was held in Indianapolis at this very time.  One of the candidates nominated for office was a big burly fellow who had never made a speech in his life
     When he got up to accept his nomination, his mind went blank and he could not utter a word.  The pounding and cheering went on until in desperation he blurted out, “The ticket you have nominated here is going to win “when the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”  This Riley poem had just been published a few days before. in the newspaper.
     The applause that greeted these words showed that most of these prominent men had read Riley’s work and approved of it.  Halford kept him on, and he became an established poet. 
      Riley saved his job by a landscape!
Here then is the poem. Keep an eye on your pumpkin for surely in the next few weeks the frost will appear and the golden days of autumn will be behind us with the long stretch of winter ahead.


When the Frost is on the Punkin
by James Whitcomb Riley


WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.


They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here--
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries--kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below--the clover over-head!--
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me--
I'd want to 'commodate 'em--all the whole-indurin' flock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!