Friday, December 30, 2016

Ringing in the New Year

Is it sad to admit that I’ve never attended a big New Year’s Eve party? It’s just not my thing. I don’t drink so it’s not surprising, at least not to me. New Year’s Eve has always been a low-key event for me. We usually go out to dinner then come home and spend the night in front of the television. When my boys were younger, we’d go to Blockbusters and rent a couple of movies to watch. I’d make finger foods to snack on, although we never ate much of them. Most of us were still full from dinner so I stopped doing that. I did go all out for the year 2000 though. On the way home from dinner, we stopped and bought fireworks, something I’d never waste my money on any other time. I figured we’d only see a century change once in our lifetime so we might as well celebrate it. On December 31, 1999, we all went outside at midnight and set off the fireworks. And that was probably the only time anyone went outside with me at midnight. For many years, it was just me, myself, and I outside ringing in the new year with my noisemakers of choice—a kitchen pot and wooden spoon. When the boys were really young, they’d fall asleep before midnight and I wouldn’t want to wake them up. Then as they got older, they said I was embarrassing them and they wanted no part of it. Even Charlie wouldn’t go outside with me. So as the clock ticked down, I’d step outside and when midnight struck, I’d beat the pot with my wooden spoon as hard as I could for at least a minute. I was usually the only person in the neighborhood making any noise so I’m sure my neighbors weren’t happy with me, but no one ever complained. After all, it was New Year’s. People expected noise at midnight.

As it turns out, I’ve been carrying on a family tradition started years ago by my Mama. I mentioned to her one year what fun I had the night before ringing in the New Year and she told me that we used to do the same thing when we were growing up. I didn’t remember that but it must have been hidden somewhere in the depths of my memory. Why else would I have chosen this method to ring in the New Year?

So, as we bid farewell to 2016, once again, I’m sure I’ll be the only member of this Murphy family in my front yard ringing in 2017. I don’t want to break a tradition! I hope you’re able to carry on whatever family tradition you have with your loved ones. And if you don’t have a family tradition, it’s not too late to start one! Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Vintage Christmas cards

We’ve only received a few Christmas cards this year and I can’t say a thing because we only mailed a few cards ourselves. Times have changed. Many people have stopped sending Christmas cards. Or possibly they’re sending electronic cards instead. So since I didn’t have many cards to enjoy, I thought I’d take a look at some of vintage Christmas cards in the Murphy family collection.

This first card is one my father-in-law Earl gave to my mother-in-law Mary. She loved cards. I believe when she died in 2006, she still had every card she’d ever received in her lifetime.

This is a card sent to my husband Charlie on his first Christmas in 1956. It is signed by Georgia Lee who was apparently a neighbor in West Virginia.

Georgia sent Mary a separate Christmas card that year.

This card was sent to Charlie by his grandparents—George and Bertha Athya–in 1957.

This cute card was also sent to Charlie by his Grandpa and Grandma Athya in 1960. The deer fur on the front of the card is textured so it actually feels like fur.

On the back, Grandma Athya wrote “You will tell us what Santa brought you for Christmas won’t you.”

This Santa card was sent to Charlie by Mrs. Gorby and Jimmy (his aunt’s mother and brother) in 1961.

Charlie made this card for his parents. I think it’s cute that he wrote “To Mother and Father” and signed it “Charles M.” He called them Mom and Dad and I’m sure they would have known who Charles was without the initial M.

None of the cards have a price on them. I’d love to compare the prices to what you pay for a card today.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pickle pinwheels

Pickle pinwheels on my mother-in-law's vintage plate
It became clear to me last weekend that my pickle pinwheels have become a family tradition. People often walk into a party asking for them. We’ve been enjoying this savory appetizer for a long time now. It’s one that we make year-round when the family gathers together.

I got the recipe from a co-worker in the 1980s. Once a month, his wife sent treats in for the entire department. They were mostly sweet treats but on one occasion, she sent these pickle pinwheels. Everyone loved them so we asked her to share the recipe.

This appetizer is very easy to make. I like them because they can be made the day before so that all you need to do the day of the party is slice and plate them. When slicing, don’t throw the end pieces away. They may not look pretty but they taste the same. Store them in the refrigerator and pull them out later for a nice treat.

If you like pickles, you’ll love this appetizer. They’re addictive. But let me offer a warning—they’ll give you a bellyache if you eat too many. My husband can vouch for that—one might say he deserved the bellyache though.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try them sometimes.

Pickle pinwheels
8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of garlic salt of powder
Mayo (not salad dressing)
Buddig Sliced Beef (thin sliced)
1 jar Claussen whole dill pickles
Drain the pickles and set aside. Combine the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic with enough mayo to make it spreadable. Lay two slices of beef down, overlapping them slightly (I use a small amount of the cream cheese mixture to glue the pieces together on both ends and in the middle). Lay two more slices of beef on top of the first layer (again glue them together). Gently spread a layer of cheese mixture on top of the layered beef. Place a pickle on one edge of cheese and roll up so it is encased in meat covered cheese. Refrigerate, covered, at least two hours or overnight. Just before serving, cut into ¼ inch slices.

Note: The Buddig meat used to come in squares but now it’s round. It was nicer looking when it was square but it still works.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A nutty Christmas tradition

Today was a day off for me although I was very busy so it didn’t really feel like a day off. But it was a fun day, spent baking eight pounds of cinnamon sugar pecans. Every Christmas, I bake a boatload of these treats to gift to family. It’s become a family tradition. It actually started years ago because I wanted to give my boss a Christmas gift. Etiquette told me that it wasn’t expected that I give my boss a gift but if I did, food would be appropriate. I knew he liked nuts so after Mama shared her cinnamon sugar pecan recipe with me, I decided they would fit the bill. And he loved them. I made enough to share with co-workers and they enjoyed them as well. My mother-in-law loved snacks and liked pecans so I decided they would make a nice gift for her. She loved them too. Then at some point, I decided the nuts would make a good gift for my nephews so I made some for them. They loved them and it turns out their wives loved them as well. So, I finally started making small individual bags for the entire family to pass out at our annual Christmas party. They always seem happy to be handed a bag. We’re having our party tomorrow so I’ll likely make a few people happy.

My brother-in-law told me last weekend that he’d like a big bag this year. He said those little bags just aren’t enough.

By the way, I’ve never eaten a single pecan. I don’t like them. I know, that sounds sinful being as I was born and raised in Georgia, but I just don’t like them.

The recipe is very easy—you just need to allow plenty of time if you’re cooking a lot of them. Each batch needs to cook for an hour—so turn on some Christmas music and wrap a few presents while they bake.

Here’s the recipe if you would like to try them. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans
½ cup white sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 lb. shelled pecan halves
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large Ziploc bag.

Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy.

Stir in the pecans. 

Once coated, add the pecans to the Ziploc bag.

Seal the bag and shake to coat with the cinnamon mixture. 

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.

Bake one hour at 225 degrees. Remove the pecans from the oven, cool, then break apart.

Wilton makes these nice treat bags (with ties) to package the pecans in.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas tree of memories

Like many people, we put our Christmas tree up last weekend, something I always look forward to and enjoy very much. As I look for that special spot for each ornament, I like to reflect on how it became part of our collection. A couple of them moved with me from Georgia to Virginia many years ago; some were given to me by friends, family, and co-workers; some were handmade by myself and my children; and some I bought as an annual addition to our collection.

This sweet angel was made by my youngest son Kevin many years ago.

This Hallmark ornament was given to me by my boss several years ago. I had never seen a Cedar Waxwing in my life and that year, I was lucky enough to see and capture photos of three different flocks over the spring and summer months. You could tell he was excited about the ornament when he gave it to me.

My boss also gave me several Lenox ornaments.

And this beautiful Wedgewood star. He’s gone now so they all take on a different meaning.

Mama always has a crochet hook and ball of thread with her when she travels so I’ve often watched her make these snowflake and angel ornaments. I’ve made sure to get enough to last a lifetime for me and my boys.

Mama also made these angels.

And this ceramic snowman too.

For the last 10 years, I’ve added Swarovski’s annual Christmas ornament. I try to make sure they’re close to a light so they’ll twinkle on the tree. I often catch a prism on the furniture as the sun rises.

Living near Washington, DC, the annual White House Christmas ornaments are a must for the tree.

My boys painted these stained glass (plastic) ornaments when they were young.

My son Chris made these. I always smile when I place the light bulb on the tree.

That same son and his wife made a trip to Busch Gardens last December to see the light display and brought this ornament home to me.

This gorilla has been on the tree since at least 1980. I couldn’t remember where he came from and how he managed to join the collection but my husband told me it was his and he added it.

I made these ceramic ornaments in the 1980s. A friend had a ceremic kiln and we’d start pouring the ornaments in September. I’d go to her house and we’d crank up the Christmas music and sing our hearts out while we poured, cleaned, and painted the ornaments. We’d work on them all during the Fall until we had enough to sell to make some extra Christmas money. Thank goodness I was smart enough to keep some for myself.

This medallion and the Celtic crosses were bought to honor my husband’s Scottish ancestry.

I have several cross-stitch ornaments that I made years ago. This one I made for my mother-in-law one year after we argued about whether Goofy was a dog or a horse. She insisted he was a horse. We had a huge argument about this! I finally wrote a letter to Disney and asked them to settle the argument once and for all. They sent me a copy of Goofy’s bio and confirmed that he was a dog. This was one of her Christmas presents from me that year—I had to gloat a little after all. It came back to me after she passed away in 2006.

This little jug moved to Virginia with me in 1979.

One of my boys made this snowman. Wish I could remember which one.

My mother-in-law had this collection of ornaments that were engraved at Things Remembered. She had one for every member of the family and they hung proudly on her tree every year. Something else we inherited after she passed away.

One of my niece's gave this beautiful snowman to me.

The polish pottery ornaments are a recent addition to our collection. I can blame my friend Amanda for getting me hooked on polish pottery.

Even this tree skirt brings back memories as it was crocheted by a friend's mother from my old neighborhood in Atlanta.

All are special to me and are family treasures. And they make for a beautiful Christmas tree of memories. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!