Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Auld Lang Syne, or "For the Sake of Old Times”

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, people around the world sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

From its roots in a Scottish ballad by Robert Burns about unfaithful love, the song has become one that evokes nostalgia, reflection and a look to the future, especially on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight.

Over the years the song had revisions and changes, but the phrase, loosely translated from the original Scottish, means, "as time goes by," "old time's sake" or "old long since."

The words and music evoke sentimentality, nostalgia and affection for the people around us. And a thoughtful look toward the future.

No one could do the song like Guy Lombardo. Here's a YouTube video of the song by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians from 1953 (you can skip the ad). Enjoy

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should all acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

And surely you will buy your cup
And surely I'll buy mine
And we'll take a cup o'kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We too have run around the slopes
And picked the daisies fine
We've londoned many weary foot
Since auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

We too have paddled in the stream
From morning sun to night
But the seas between us broad have roared
From auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne
We'll take a cup o'kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Happy New Year to one and all. May 2014 be a great year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

To Wear Fur…..Or Not

Queen Elizabeth has been criticized by animal rights groups for wearing a fur coat on Christmas Day.
Credit: dailymail.co.uk
It seems the media were divided about whether to criticize her, or praise her for her thrift – the coat being more than 50 years old.

We all know the controversy surrounding the wearing of animal furs. Being an animal lover myself, I absolutely support the humane treatment of ALL animals in ALL cases.

Oh, I have heard the stories about the inhumane manner in which some animals are trapped and killed for their furs. It’s disgusting and I cannot bear to think about it.

But what about wearing leather? Or eating meat? There doesn’t seem to be the same outcry for these activities.

Some animals (minks) are farm raised for their pelts. Is this so much different from raising beef cattle or pork?

Is wearing a 50 year old coat going to bring back the lives of the animals who once wore the Queens’s coat? Or was she being castigated for what appeared to be an outward show of support for wearing furs?

Perhaps she wore the coat to keep warm! And in my opinion, the Queen should wear that coat whenever she pleases!

But what about the rest of us? Should we drag out our furs and wear them? Destroy them? Give them away for someone else to wear?

I bought mine more than 25 years ago. There wasn’t quite as much controversy on the subject then as there is today. My lifestyle then was such that I found occasions to wear them. And they are beautiful!

Now there are not that many days here that such a warm coat is needed. But when it gets really cold, nothing is as warm as a fur coat.

I haven’t worn mine in almost 20 years. Well, I take that back. I wore the long one a few years ago to walk the dogs on cold days. Is my mink coat now relegated to being worn in the fields and woods so that only the dogs see me?

I’ve been told wearing furs is not as controversial in other countries as it is in the U.S. What is your view on the subject.

I close this post with the story about a woman who inherited a fur coat. One day she was approached by an antifur campaigner who screamed at her, "What poor creature had to die so that you could wear that coat?"

Puzzled, the woman frowned and replied, “Why, my aunt. Why do you ask?”

I look forward to your comments and opinions.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cure for Dry, Itchy Winter Skin

It’s that time of year again. No, not for taking down the Christmas tree, making New Year’s Resolutions or cleaning out the closet.

For many of us, it’s that time when our skin starts to feel like bugs are crawling on it; when we want to claw our skin to relieve the terrifying itch.
Credit: scripps.org

Welcome to winter!

What to do? I’ve tried everything, or so it seems. I’ve used numerous products, even those remotely known to add moisture back to moisture-deprived skin.

My dry itching skin is not on my face at all, but rather on my midsection and lower legs.

It was time to find something that really works. So I’ve been researching it for us. Here’s what I’ve found.

Credit: health.howstuffworks.com
Yes, adding moisturizers to the skin is part of the solution. Use rich, creamy products.

But that’s only a part of the solution for dry and itching winter skin. Here are other recommendations from doctors:

Credit: amazon.com
Use a humidifier. I’m unpacking mine tonight and using it where I sleep. Any old kind will do so long as it adds moisture to the dry air.

Credit: extension.usc.edu
Drink plenty of water. We (or at least I) tend to drink less water during cold weather. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be drinking my at least 8 glasses each day.

Credit: grohe.com
Take shorter showers, no more than five minutes. The water should not be too hot or too cool. Lukewarm is the key here.

Two cautions here: If you see red blotches or severely scaly skin, your condition could be due to a rash or eczema, in which case you should consult a dermatologist.

Most sources agree that dry and itchy winter skin is due to two factors:
  • Less humidity in the air during cold winter months.
  • The drying affects of our home heating systems.

Wish me luck? Are you afflicted with this condition?

Have you had success with particular products or procedures for dealing with this problem? If so, please share.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Baking for Christmas

There are a few foods I make each and every year for Christmas. These food traditions are embedded so deep in me that I don’t feel the holiday is complete unless I have them on hand.

Some recipes have come and gone, others have been added, but these are my favorites:
I haven't made these YET, but Christmas is still three days away. This is a Google image.

Viennese Crescents
(This cookie is known by other names, among them, Mexican Wedding Cookies. I have been making these crunchy little nuggets for more years than I can remember. It’s very easy.)

Set the oven at 300 degrees.
Cream thoroughly
 1 cup butter (don’t use margarine!)
¼ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup ground almonds (unbleached)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix well. Shape with fingers into crescents about 3 inches by 1 inch and ½ inch thick. (NOTE: To ensure consistency in size, I shape them into smallish balls, which is much easier than crescent shapes.) Roll in
Confectioners’ sugar

Place on cookie sheets. Bake 35 minutes (but watch them so they don't get too brown. Cool. Roll in sugar again. Makes about 36.
Note: If you substitute hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, decrease flour to 1-3/4 cups.
Store in a tin. Keeps well.

Pecan Tassies
Mini pecan pies

1 cup butter
6 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
Mix softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add flour in fourths; work into smooth dough. Chill Shape into 1-1/4 inch balls and press into small muffin pans to make shells.
1 box light brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Dash of salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans.
Slowly beat sugar into eggs. Mix in butter, salt and vanilla. Place ½ teaspoon nuts in each shell, add filling to about ½ full. Top with more nuts. Bake 25 minutes at 350 until set. Better made 1-2 days ahead. Put waxed paper between layers to store. Keeps well.

Sausage Balls
Delicious for breakfasts around Christmas time. Nothing could be easier:
1 lb. pork sausage (I use sage flavored)
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups Bisquick or self-rising flour
A shake of cayenne pepper if you prefer it hot, or use hot sausage for similar effect)
A few drops of water if needed for mixing
Mix all ingredients in food processor or by hand. Roll into balls. May be frozen before baking and removing from freezer as needed. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 and bake for about 30 minutes. Just watch them to prevent overbrowning. Line cookie sheet with parchment to prevent sticking.

These are not the "prettiest" Christmas cookies to be found, but they are oh-so-melt-in-your-mouth good!

Nurnberger Elisen Lebkuchen
(A variation of the traditional gingerbread-type lebkuchen. This recipe, which uses no flour, is from my mother-in-law and my husband’s favorite cookie. She gave me the recipe in grams and I haven’t bothered to translate into ounces, as I have a scale that weighs in  grams. I usually double or triple the recipe, as these don’t last long at our house. My mother-in-law always baked these on thin oblaten wafers but I find baking on parchment paper prevents sticking just as well.)
2 eggs
200 grams sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar (I don’t always have this on hand so I simply add about ½ teaspoon vanilla to 3 tablespoons sugar for a similar effect)
Big dash ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon
½ shot rum
1-2 drops lemon extract
75 grams candied citron
125 grams almonds
¼ teaspoon baking powder
125 grams ground hazelnuts

Set oven at 350 degrees
Beat eggs and sugars until thick and creamy. Add spices.
Grind citron and nuts together
Mix egg mixture with nut mixture
Bake 25-30 minutes. Best when aged in sealed tin a few days. Half an apply may be added to retain moistness.
(Nuts are best ground with a manual grinder in order to obtain a consistency similar to flour. If ground in a food processor the result is not the same. Regarding the citron, I simply chop it finely so as to not gum up the grinder with stickiness.)
If you bake these, I suggest baking a test cookie before loading up an entire cookie sheet. Why? Because oven temperatures vary and you don’t want these to cook too fast and brown over before getting fully baked. I find my cookies turn out better at 325 degrees and adding about 10 minutes to the baking time.

A colorful sweet bread for Christmas, and I made it for many years. But it dries out so fast that I have discontinued the tradition.....at least for now. Credit: The Swiss Colony

I used to bake Christmas Stollen each year, but after so many years of it drying out too quickly, I prefer just making a yeast bread Danish pastry, or purchasing a Panettone.

A new one this year: Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make these cookies because of the way they look. I found one of the special cookie cutters this year, so this was my first attempt. I was not at all pleased with the difficulty involved, primarily because the dough stuck horribly inside the little design cut-out for the top cookie. I’m not bothering to post the recipe because I won’t be making these again! But they are quite good.

From the looks of my baking (and I have not featured everything here, as I also made chocolate truffles, haystacks, pumpkin cookies and peanut butter fudge) one might think we do lots of eating around here. The fact is that I give away many of these sweet treats.

Baking is a lot of trouble and takes much time. However, being in the kitchen is one of the ways I enjoy Christmas. Put on the music, light a pine or cinnamon scented candle and bake away!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Limping Toward Christmas

It’s been slow coming – this getting ready for Christmas business. I’ve always envied those who can think about Christmas and plan accordingly for months in advance. Well, sort of, anyway.

It must be mid-December before I can even begin thinking and planning for it. Perhaps it's more difficult, but the “last-minute” shopping, baking, decorating – even listening to the music that’s been going on for weeks – are what gets me “in the mood” for Christmas.

I managed a bit of shopping yesterday, accomplished some baking and house decorating this past weekend, and am slowly trying to psych myself up for the coming day.

How about you? Do you find it more difficult each year? Or is it just me?

Here are a few pictures of the limited decorations I’ve placed in the house this year.

My next post will include some of the food I’ve prepared – cookies, candies, etc.
My favorite holiday decorations are the tiny bright lights that I place on tabletops -- in a different way each year. This time, I just left the dried hydrangea arrangement on top of the dining room buffet and placed the lights and artificial greenery around it.

Just a few simple white candles in front of the living room fireplace.

More lights around another dried hydrangea arrangement on a side table in the living room.

White lights and candles on the mantle. Nearer Christmas, I'll probably gather fresh magnolia leaves to add to the arrangement.

I dug out the Christmas piano music for display. The two books are childrens story books that I received as gifts when I was six years old!

Three glittery trees that I like for some reason and place them on the coffee table each year. Notice that presents have not yet been placed under the tree. That's because nothing is yet wrapped!

The tree - very simple with all red and white decorations. I have many boxes of ornaments collected over the years but chose not to use them this year. Maybe next year, when Katie will be old enough to notice them!

What preparations have you made for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Laugh for the Day

This image is going around. Perhaps you've seen it; maybe not. It just strikes me as the funniest thing! All those clever people out there coming up with such things sometimes amazes me!

Credit: kulfoto.com
Just for the record, we did not have snow here this morning. Just cold.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It Feels Like Losing a Friend.

For the almost two years since I established my blog, I have come to feel I know some of the people who read and comment here. 

Even though they live far away, on other continents even and I know I’ll never meet them, a friendship of sorts develops over time.

Credit: greeningofgavin.com
 That’s why I felt sad that our friend Mette from Finland wrote her farewell post last week. I understand completely why. She is moving on with her life, especially since the much looked forward to birth of her first grandchild.

Blogging is time consuming. Reading others’ blogs and commenting on the ones you read takes time as well. So yes, I understand why people stop.

Credit: imperiusdominatus.com

And yet….. I will miss reports of what’s going on at Haugland (I trust I have spelled it correctly). We have come to know her precious dog Morty, her beautiful horse Hemple. We will miss getting a small glimpse of her stylishly and tastefully decorated home. We shall miss seeing what’s available in stores, as she often posted the latest offerings in clothes/handbags/shoes and home d├ęcor/accessories.

Heck, we even “met up” once in Helsinki for coffee and show off our dogs!

Mette’s was one of those blogs I looked forward to reading each day or so. She was always real, honest and frank on both her posts and comments on others’ blogs. Refreshing.

So I say farewell, Mette, hopefully not forever, though. I hope you’ll stop by and say hello from time to time. And who knows, perhaps in the future you’ll decide to start blogging again.

If so, many of us will be here and anxious to greet you once more.

Good luck, Mette, in all that you do. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I’m Dreaming of a Kringle

Ah, kringles. That rich, buttery, light and flaky pastry unknown to me until I spent some time in the State of Wisconsin.
Credit: what'scookingamerica.net
The South may be known for its Peach Cobbler Pie, Banana Pudding or Lane Cake, but when you’re in Wisconsin you eat kringles.

So what the heck IS a Kringle, anyway?

Credit: Racine Danish Kringle
A type of Danish pastry which is specially worked and kneaded so that it becomes light, flaky, and very rich, it is almost like French puff pastry, which is then filled with a nut or fruit filling.

They were first introduced to Racine, Wisconsin in the late 1800s by immigrant Danish bakers. In Denmark, they are traditionally pretzel-shaped, almond-filled coffee cakes called Wienerbroth (Viennese bread).

At one time Racine was home to more Danes than anywhere else in the country and as a result there are more kringle shops in Racine than you'll find anywhere else in the U.S.

The Kringle became the Official State Pastry of Wisconsin on June 30, 2013. Racine has historically been a center of Danish-American culture and kringle making, both an important part of Racine's cultural identity.

While traditionally round, kringles are sometimes formed into a rectangle shape.
Credit: Huffington Post
A typical Racine–made kringle is a large flat oval measuring approximately 14 inches by 10 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds.

Credit: Food Network
If you want to order kringles Racine Danish Kringles has a cyberMonday special (three for the price of two). Or if you want to make your own, find a less complicated version at What's Cooking America. This version doesn't 
require the tedious process of rolling out layers of butter and dough but the result is similar and very, very good (in fact fantastic).

Here’s a little joke I found (whether true or not…who knows; cute though!)

Lars Larson, was on his deathbed in an upstairs bedroom. His doctor had said Lars would last for only a matter of hours. Lars woke from a deep sleep and sniffed. His wife must have just returned from the bakery, and the aroma of freshly baked kringles bought a spark to Lars. He whispered, "If I could just have a taste of kringle before I die, it would make my dying sweeter."

He mustered every ounce of strength and got out of bed. Slowly he made his way downstairs and into the kitchen. there he spied two kringles on the counter. Just as he was reaching out to take a piece, his wife swatted his hand away. "Stop that," she said. "We're saving these for the funeral."

Have you eaten kringles? Are you tempted to make one?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday -- a time when family, food and football are enjoyed without all the hassle, hustle and bustle that will soon prevail.

Below are a few vintage images from Pinterest that illustrate this American holiday in simpler times. 

The cook no longer has to conquer the turkey, as was the case in times of old. Now that's something to be thankful for!

So 1950s, isn't it?

Love Charlie Brown

Children presented in old images were so precious.

I have prepared many of the side dishes and placed them in the freezer, to be thawed and cooked for the Thanksgiving meal. A good thing, as it allows more time to focus on Baby Katie!

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

That Day in Dallas

Ask anyone old enough to remember Nov. 22, 1963 and they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy Jr., had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
google image
So much changed after that day – both for the nation and the world.

So what was life like in 1963? It was scary. The country was deeply immersed in the Cold War. People had built fallout shelters in the event of a nuclear attack. Children practiced “duck and cover” exercises at school and were issued military-style dog tags, ostensibly so their bodies could be identified , just in case.

A few other facts about America in 1963:
  • The population was about 189 million (313.9 million in 2012)
  • The median family income was $6,200
  • Gas averaged 29 cents a gallon
  • A new car averaged $3,233
  • The average cost of a new home was $12,650.
  • A loaf of bread was 22 cents
  • A postage stamp cost a nickel
  • The new Zoning Improvement Plan, or ZIP codes, had just been introduced
  • AT&T had introduced the touch-tone phone, successor to the rotary dial
  • The Instamatic camera and Lava Lamps went on sale
  • Troll dolls, created in 1959 by a Danish woodcutter, became a full-fledged U.S. fad in fall 1963.
  • Pull-tops on aluminum cans were introduced
  • Coca-Cola introduced its first diet drink, TaB
  • Oscar Mayer began airing the radio jingle, “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener”
  • Showing at the movies: “Cleopatra,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” The Great Escape” and “To Kill a Mockingbird
  • On television:  “Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Flintstones,” “My Three Sons,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Perry Mason” and “The Jimmy Dean Show”
  • The number one song: Deep Purple by Neno Tempo and April Stevens
  • What is believed to be the first U.S. news story on the Beatles ran on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report” the evening of Nov. 18, 1963. The morning of Nov. 22, the “CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” ran a story on the group. The network planned to repeat the 5-minute segment on Walter Cronkite’s evening newscast. But a few hours later, Cronkite was on the air reporting the news that shots had been fired at Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas. All regular television-news programming was canceled for almost four days while the networks covered the assassination and funeral of the president. “The CBS Evening News” finally aired the Beatles segment Dec. 10.

The assassination changed the way we get our news. Until then, people trusted newspapers as their main news source, but after Nov. 22, television screens became a serious way, and the principle means, of getting news.

google image

But those were physical conditions and events. That day in Dallas changed other things too. It left us feeling vulnerable to the heartache and turmoil that was yet to come. It felt the country was falling apart: The murders of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy; Vietnam; campus unrest; racial turmoil; Watergate; assassination attempts on other presidents; more wars; political upheaval; a divided country.

Time moves on and we adjust and adapt. Somehow we get through it all and life goes on. But we are left cynical, doubtful, not trusting. We can get past most of it.

But it seems we are not able to get past Nov. 22, 1963. Not half a century later. Maybe never.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Mysterious Anderson School Mural

Anderson School will close at the end of current school year. It will be a sad day indeed for the community and all who have been associated with it for the past 90 years.
Front view of the old Anderson Elementary School
Credit: Florence-Lauderdale Library digital archives

Side view of the old Anderson Elementary School, which has now been demolished.
Credit: Florence-Lauderdale Library digital archives  

I don't know when the white two-story wooden structure – which originally housed grades 1-9 -- was built, but my mother attended school there until when, in 1936, a brick one-story building was built for grades 7-9. Hers was the first class to graduate 9th grade in the current brick building in 1937.
I attended elementary school in the white building, but some years later it was deemed a fire hazard, demolished, and all grades consolidated in the brick building and an auxiliary building built alongside it. I don’t have a photo of the brick building as it looked when constructed.

In the school's auditorium, at the rear of the stage, was a mural that most of the time was rolled up. But on certain occasions it was unfurled and even back then, we were amazed because it was so “old.” My mother certainly remembered it from her school days.

At the present time the mural is being displayed on a side wall in the auditorium.  Not knowing what the future holds for the structure, let alone the mural, I visited a few days ago to get some photos.

The artist is unknown, as it is not signed!

The history of the mural also is unknown, insofar as I've been able to determine. School officials don't know, and unless someone in the community can provide documentation, I suppose it will remain a mystery.

The painting consists of ads" for local businesses. Did the school sell ads to fund the painting? To raise money for the new school?

All of these businesses are "long gone," but my mother remembers them all. Only a few remained by the time I came along.

An oddity: The painting scene in the center of the mural is Norris Dam, the first TVA dam to be built. It is located in East Tennessee, far away from Anderson, Ala. A more logical choice would have been Wheeler Dam or Wilson Dam, two TVA dams that are nearby.  Since Norris Dam is in Anderson County, Tennessee, could the artist have thought he was painting the mural for a local school? And is it possible the artist was from that area?

I am rather amazed the painting has held up so well all these years. The canvas shows no sign of deterioration, nor does the paint. I only hope this historic mural finds a home when the school closes.

If anyone locally reads this, and can provide any information about the mural, please let me know!

Thank you.
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