Monday, December 24, 2018

The Stockings Were Hung

To the banquet of real presents which was waiting downstairs...the stocking toys...were only an aperitif; but they had a special and exciting quality of their own. Perhaps it was the atmosphere in which they were opened--the chill, the black windowpanes, the unfamiliar hour.
Jan Struther in Mrs Minerva

It always surprised me to see how our children loved exploring the contents of their stockings, considering that all the real loot was waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

One of my treasured memories that I pull out with sloppy sentimentality is of the Christmas when our firstborn had recently turned three. He brought his red felt stocking that his great-aunt Etta had made him to our bed while it was still dark outside, his little sister still asleep at a year and a half. He was trembling with excitement.

Ever so seriously he said, "San-Santa brought me a re-red truck." To this day I still see his flushed little face and his thick dark eyelashes fluttering as he held out the cheap plastic red truck in his chubby little hand. He held it up as if it was the Koh-i-noor diamond.

Mercy! At that moment I understood exactly how the Grinch felt after his transformation because I felt as if my heart was going to burst with joy.

Perhaps it was this memory that used to motivate me to put as much thought into guiding Santa with his stocking stuffers as with the "important" gifts under the tree.

As Mrs. Minerva understood, Christmas is "one of the moments...which paid off at a single stroke, all the accumulations on the debit side of parenthood."

When I was a high school senior, I told my mother that I wanted to help her and my father "play Santa" to my younger sisters. Mama turned a deaf ear to me and did not let me stay up to help on Christmas Eve.

When RH and I had our own children, I understood why Mama hadn't let me help her and Daddy. I was attempting to poach on staked and claimed rights, private property. 

Because on Christmas morning, after twelve months of parenting, comes one of the most rewarding times of the year, seeing the joy in your children's faces as they find what Santa Claus has left them. 

It's been quite a few years since RH and I helped Santa stuff stockings on Christmas Eve. 

But we have all those wonderful memories, beginning with when a little blonde haired boy in his yellow flannel Dr. Denton-footed pajamas climbed into bed with us and said:

"San-Santa brought me a re-red truck."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dear Nora,

My dear granddaughter, I know you've grown so much since your daddy took this photograph a few years back. Now you share this little white Christmas tree with your little sister. Your mommy and daddy gave it to me before you were born, and I gave it back to you the year this picture was taken. 

That look of wonder in your eyes as it's lit in your bedroom makes your Mimi's heart skip a beat.

But someday you will be your mommy's age, or even my age, as hard as that is to imagine. So here's a little advice about Christmas from someone even older than your Mimi that maybe you'll find handy when you celebrate Christmas as an adult someday.

Christmas is not the time for attending to one's duty; it is the time for having attended to it. If duty must be done, do it early. If there are letters that ought to be written, cards that should be exchanged, packages that must be gotten off, do all these things in that first burst of Yuletide spirit engendered by the merchants in late November.
Abbie Graham
Time Off and On

So just remember, dear Nora, do what I say, not what I do. Don't save everything that should have been done in late November and early December for those final few days before the Christmas festivities begin. 

I wish someone had told me that way back when I was near your age, lying under our Christmas tree.

My love to you and your little sister,  sweet Nora! See you soon,

To my dear friends reading Dewena's Window, I know all of you are just as busy as I am this near to Christmas, probably more busy. But I am so behind in preparing for Christmas that I ask you to excuse me from the wonderful world of blogging until after Christmas. 

I do have a Christmas Eve post already scheduled, put together one night when I couldn't sleep, and I'll let it run as it's about family and for family, but please know that I want each of you to devote yourselves to your own holiday celebration and the family and friends around you and not even think about having to leave a comment here then, or just a hello if you feel so inclined.

I will return to visiting everyone after Christmas and RH and I wish each of you the most joyous times with your loved ones.

Love to you all as I pause to celebrate the birth of Christ with dear ones,


Monday, December 17, 2018

1968 House & Garden December Issue

This 1968 House & Garden magazine is a star in my large collection of vintage magazines, although it's difficult for me to think of anything 1968 as vintage. if you were born as early in the 20th century as I was, you would understand what I mean.

I thought it would be fun to show you a few things featured in this December 1968 issue.

There is a fabulous article on Christmas tables done by designers--we used to love those before bloggers took the world by storm with their own tablescapes.

This pretty one above is a Christmas Eve supper done by interior designer Chessy Rayner and Mica Ertegun of Mac II. I'm afraid I didn't even get to Mica as I completely fell down the rabbit hole researching Chessy Rayner. Just google her name and you'll find lots of photographs of her interiors and the newspaper account of her life as a fashion and designer icon. 

Her table above brought to mind one I did, among three others, in a December 2013 post called 'Tis the Season to Set the Stage.

I went back myself and read the post again--do you bloggers ever do that?--and saw sweet comments from many of you there.

RH and I had so much fun doing those four tables for a Christmas link party, but I have to confess that I've not done a single holiday table yet this month. I know some of you have, I've seen some lovely ones.

I may not follow through on everything that inspires me from my vintage women's magazines anymore but I love to spend an hour at night looking through them, notebook and pen in hand, jotting down ideas, ideas that I may never get around to doing. 

These old magazines are as comforting to me as a beloved classic holiday movie. 

This issue had a section on seasonal light displays across the U.S., like this one on Alamitos Bay near Long Beach, California. Do any of you readers live near that and know if the annual practice has been continued?

There was a fascinating article about Broadway star Joel Grey showing his apartment in Manhattan designed by Albert Hadley, who grew up in Nashville, while Grey was starring in Cabaret. 

Zebra rugs, chinoiserie, and trellis design must have been very popular that year. 

I loved the bedroom of his eight-year-old daughter Jennifer--didn't she star in a little film with Patrick Swayze when she grew up? 

The magazine also featured a beautifully iced fruitcake, something I've been researching because RH and I love good homemade golden fruitcake (well, he'll eat almost any store-bought fruitcake too, not me) and this year I really want to ice mine.

Maybe try something simple like this one I saw on Pinterest...

I'm smitten by the ones on Pinterest that use marzipan and then fondant icing, the only problem being that I've never used either of those products before.

Have any of you ever baked with them? Would a novice make a complete mess of it? And I also have to think about this fruitcake lasting us a long time, at least until Easter, because no one else in our family will eat fruitcake. How will the icing hold up with the cake refrigerated? I welcome any advice from you!

Meanwhile, it's getting drizzled with Calvados every few days and kept in a cool room. I'm thinking that we'll save it for Epiphany to let it season longer so maybe I have time to watch a lot of fondant videos before trying it.

How about you? Do you like, love or loathe fruitcake?

If you don't care for it, maybe that's because of the citron in it. I never put citron in mine, citron should be banned from the planet! And I buy my cherries from the King Arthur people.

I hope you liked a glimpse into what the magazines were like in December of 1968. I got out my first Christmas family scrapbook and found only one page from 1968, we just didn't take many photos back then. And our little girl was almost hidden by the toy box, her older brother with a big smile.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Knock, Knock!

Me: Knock, knock!

You: Who's there?

Me: Orange.

You: Orange who?

Me: Orange you glad to see me? 😁

I guess I'm pretty lazy to leave a Veteran's Day post up for three weeks, but it turned out to be a blessing for me because I got to read more of your own stories in the comments than if I'd jumped to the next thing and I loved each one of them. 

Even now when everyone is all over the subject of Christmas and the holidays ahead, here I am lagging behind with what should have been posted in October.

Because I'm talking orange today, orange and UK Christmas magazine issues, specifically my dreamboat of a magazine, Period Living.

(I don't know about you but I am head over heels in love with this tangerine and white kitchen with touches of hot pink.)

Years ago when all the fancy-smancy US shelter magazines started ignoring Christmas in their December issues--yes, I'm talking about you, House Beautiful American version--I gave up on them and started buying the British magazines' December issues. 

I won't link to it here because there were only a few comments and one of them was from my son, but I even wrote about it at my other blog back in 2012 in my first month of blogging.

(I adore artist Vanessa Arbutnott's kitchen in her 1890 house in Gloucestershire, England.)

I've saved many of the British December issues over the years, those that are timeless, and many of them are.

But the one I search high and low for each December is Period Living, the one I discovered just a few years ago. I don't even pack them away with the other December magazines as they inspire me all year round.

The Period Living shown in the first three pictures above are from this year's October issue. RH brought it home to me as a surprise when I was so sick that month and I loved the touches of orange featured in the issue. 

I don't really have much orange here in my rooms but at Valley View I indulged my love of it, as you can see from this picture of our family room. (Look at the partial wall behind the two hanging light fixtures.)

Our last Christmas there in 2015, I even incorporated orange into my Christmas decor, not ready to toss October's pumpkins. The purples and pinks of our Christmas tree took on a new zing with the orange.

Now, on with more orange!

Years ago I saw this ad in one of my vintage magazines.

I was going to make this dessert of Caramel Bavarian Mold and post it back in 2014, even bought two copper melon molds.

It never happened, but this year I bought two bags of the Kraft Caramels and in early November I finally made it!

I worried about those 3 raw egg whites, would I give us all salmonella by folding them in raw? I couldn't risk it and folded them into the hot custard gradually which meant my mixture was not as glossy as the picture. Still I stuck the two molds into a glass casserole to hold them upright and put them in the fridge and poured a small bowl of the leftover custard to chill too, sampling it later that night. Delicious!

Supper plans with some family members got cancelled and there the Caramel Bavarian molds sat in the fridge, uneaten for a week. RH couldn't eat the dairy in it and I wondered if I really wanted to eat all of that high fructose corn syrup that was in the Kraft caramels.

Seven days after making it I unmolded them and posed them on a silver tray and took pictures.

And then I slid the blasted things into the trash can.

If I ever make this recipe again I will buy my caramels from the Duck Fat people here...

Of course the caramels then would cost me $40--what!! 

That's my serving of orange for you, dear friends.

I'll pack away this old woven spread that we found years ago for $24 and move on to catch up with the rest of you knee-deep in Christmas colors.

But how can I resist first doing a little name dropping and saying that a year after buying the spread I saw it in a full-page color Ralph Lauren room, draped over a hassock! And then the next year I found another one in an antique shop in Mount Dora, Florida for over $300. What!!

I take good care of this woven spread of orange, red, and green and hope one of my children will some day--don't you dare donate it to GW, kids, or I'll haunt you every October. I'll leave my melon molds to you too. Ha, those will get tossed, or maybe not as I have one daughter-in-law who has a wall of them. 

I wonder who will claim my Spode collection, like my stack of 11 old plates that I've never been able to identify the pattern name. Anyone out there know it?

Orange you glad this is the end of my post?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Children of Soldiers

That's me on the left and my playmate beside me. 

We were at the seventh base our fathers had been sent to during their Air Force training, this time in Columbus, Ohio where they both were in Transition School, from training planes to combat planes, the B-17. 

I've written in other years of blogging on Veteran's Day about my father's training and his brothers' service and once wrote about a woman veteran [here], but today I'm thinking about the children of soldiers and the spouses and partners of soldiers. 

I was too young to remember any of my father's days in WW II but I grew up hearing stories of this time and the wonderful families Mama and I stayed with near the bases, waiting for our Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon time with Daddy. 

In Columbus, Ohio Mama and I both found a friend, another Air Force wife who was married to an American pilot of Japanese family, and their daughter.

I don't remember many of Mama's stories about my little friend and her mother, only that they were both young and in love with their husbands and looked forward to the weekend when the men were free to be with their families. 

Between that time the two women watched us play together but I can only imagine the conversations they shared, these two young mothers, far away from their own mothers and families.

My friend Tammy talks often about her beloved nephew who serves in the Air Force and his wife and their two sons who are growing up seeing their father deployed. I won't share her personal stories of them here but this family is just one of the thousands who sacrifice time with their loved ones in service to our country.

I don't even remember the name of my playmate. I wish so much I had written down more of my parents' stories. But when I look at her photo I hope she had a lifetime of growing up with her father, just as I did. 

And today I'm thinking of the children of soldiers, hoping for the same thing for them.

Are you a child of a soldier, of a veteran? If you are, it would make me so happy to have you write about him or her here. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Fall of the Berlin Wall

On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down.

Many of us know and even remember the day two years earlier that U.S. President Ronald Reagan spoke the memorable words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," but do we know the other story?

The story of how the people of Leipzig, East Germany prayed for peace touches my heart every time I read it so I decided to share it here in case you've never heard it.

In the spring of 1989, Christian Führer, the pastor of St. Nicholas [in Leipzig] decided one Monday evening to hold a prayer service for peace in the world. A few people attended. Pastor Führer held another prayer service the next Monday. More people attended. Into the summer, the Monday evening prayer service continued--and the numbers grew. The sanctuary of St. Nicholas can hold 1,000 people. By the end of the summer, the people were spilling out the doors. Every Monday night--no sermons, no political references--just prayers for peace.
On Monday, October 9, 1,000 people were in the sanctuary, and 70,000 more were in the streets, holding candles and singing hymns. The next Monday, October 16, there were 120,000 people praying for peace. The following Monday, there were 320,000--two thirds of the city's population. On the following Monday, 500,000 people prayed and sang for peace. Ten days later, on November 9, the Berlin Wall came down. 
Jim Munroe
The Mockingbird Devotional 

Isn't this story powerful?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Does Mrs. Smith Get the Job?

September 7, 1950
8:45 a.m.

How do you like my new suit? I've been busy sewing a small business wardrobe all summer, but for my first job interview I spent all my birthday money on this oxford-gray flannel suit and the chamois vest and gloves.

Do I look professional to you? A good suit is a must for business and I didn't trust my tailoring skills enough to tackle a suit, but I've made three blouses I can wear with it and two jersey dresses. I think that will do until the paychecks start coming in.

Our twins are in third grade this year and my husband will be home working on his dissertation so it seems like the perfect time for me to find a job.

Here goes, I don't want to be late for my interview. 

Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.


9:45 a.m.

The balding man frowned and stood up, holding out his hand, her cue to stand up too.

"Mrs. Smith, I'm sure you were top of your college class when you graduated in 1940, but you have no real job experience. I need a girl with leadership skills, someone who commands respect from the girls who will work under her, someone who knows how to train other girls thoroughly. I'm afraid you..." 

He paused, turned both hands palm up and shrugged.

"Then I am just the woman you are looking for, Mr. Williams." She stood up but looked him straight in the eye as she gathered her handbag and gloves. 

"I have been busy raising two children all while managing a house, even when alone while my husband was overseas in the Army. But I've also volunteered at the Red Cross two days a week, taught Sunday School to three-year-olds, and mowed the grass so my husband could study for his degree on weekends after he was honorably discharged.

"I got up at 4 a.m. to cook breakfast and pack his lunch so he would be on time for the early shift at work before he attended classes in the afternoon. I have led a Girl Scout troop every year since high school when I won the highest award given by the Girl Scouts.

"I do know how to train women under me. There's not a lazy bone in my body and now that my husband is through with classes and is writing his dissertation and my children are well into school, I am ready to pursue my own career." 

Her shoulders thrown back, she steeled herself not to blush or cry.

"That is admirable, Mrs. Smith, it certainly is." 

He glanced at his watch and said, "But you have young children. They may be in school but who is going to take care of them when they get sick?"

"My husband will this year, Mr. Williams, and after that when he is teaching at the university we'll make other arrangements."

"But I can't be sure of that, can I? How do I know you won't decide that Johnny needs you if he breaks his leg on the playground or if Susie goes to the hospital with appendicitis?"

"Maybe not, Mr. Williams, but then you can't be sure that every woman in your office won't come down with influenza at the same time or that the men employed here won't end up hospitalized with a serious illness. All I know is that I have two children who will need to go to college someday and I plan on seeing to it that they'll be able to."

She decided to go on quickly since Mr. Williams looked at a loss for words. "That unmarried woman you're looking for, with no responsibilities at home? What happens when she falls in love and gets married and her husband is transferred? How can you be sure that I'm not a better risk than she is?"

Mr. Williams shook his head, "You certainly are persistent, Mrs. Smith. I'll give you that and you've given me a new perspective on this, but...."


Okay, dear friends, now YOU get to finish my story. Does Mrs. Smith get the job or not?

How would you end this story?

Mrs. Smith's suit courtesy of Ladies' Home Journal, August 1950.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Heavens to Betsy!

Just when I'd gotten fairly regular again in posting here at the Window and in being a faithful blog visitor, the flu struck, followed by bronchitis. So far RH hasn't caught it from me but let me tell you that after skipping the flu shot for two years I will be a faithful flu vaccine believer from now on, despite some negative news about it.

I just can't go through this every year, folks. I've been sick since September 25th and am just now crawling out of it. 

I missed celebrating our wedding anniversary and I missed an experience that I look forward to all year round, a trip to the Nashville Farmers Market to stock up on pumpkins and gourds to decorate our house for Autumn.

That was really a bummer but at this late date I'm just going to skip it and start decorating for Christmas in early November, God willing and the creek don't rise--I've learned to add that phrase to every plan because who knows what the next day will bring, right? Just ask anyone who lost everything they had in the monster storm Michael. My heart goes out to all of those without a home to return to or returning to months before things are normal. 

That makes blogging seem a little trivial, comparatively.

But please let me throw up a post here now that should have been written three years ago as a followup to a post on November 19, 2015 when I promised a dessert recipe from the meal I wrote about here in Pine Cones and French China.

In searching back through old Autumn posts this last week when I finally came out of the worst brain fog, I discovered this post that never got written. I would have given the directions back then but now I'll just show pictures and tell you a little background of the woman whose dessert recipe it is.

Michèle Morgan's Pineapple Caramel Ring dessert is from Mildred O. Knoph's Memoirs of A Cook. The cookbook author herself is worth a post someday.

She was married to movie producer Edwin H. Knopf. Even if you're not familiar with him, I bet you recognize his brother's name, Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

When Mildred and her husband dined with Michèle Morgan in her Paris apartment on the Île de la Cité overlooking the River Seine, she served them this dessert after an elegant lunch.

Not familiar with Michèle Morgan? We might have known her as well as we do Ingrid Bergman if Warner Brothers had been willing to pay RKO Studio enough to release her to play opposite Humphrey Bogart in a little film called Casablanca.

Morgan was stunning, wasn't she?

  Her dessert was delicious but the instructions are long so I won't type it here. If you really want to make it just email me and I'll scan the page and send it to you.

I hope to follow this post in a few days with a few of the many October posts I had originally planned--the Autumn decorating that never happened won't be there--and in the meantime I'll be visiting my blog friends and admiring your own Autumn decor or various thoughts.

As I look out my windows now I see absolutely no pretty Autumn colors yet. Have the leaves turned yet where you live?

Happy rest of October, dear friends! 

Friday, September 21, 2018

My Canna and Povel Wallander

[I'm sneaking one more summer garden post in before the calendar says Autumn is here tomorrow.] 

What possible link could my canna have with Povel Wallander?

Are there any Wallander fans out there? I watched it years ago and am now enjoying it all over again on Netflix.

Povel is the father of Kurt Wallander, played by Sir Kenneth Branagh, once married to Emma Thompson who he left for...wait, this is not a gossip blog so I'll get back to Povel and my canna.

Did you recognize David Warner, above, as Bob Cratchit in my favorite version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge? 

What is your favorite version? We'll be watching it soon, won't we?

David Warner has that marvelous craggy face that I'm sure any Star Trek fans will recognize--I had to throw that in for my Trekkie sons. 

And in the Swedish drama Wallander, he plays an important artist in declining health who is not on very good terms with his policeman son.

And every single picture Povel paints is the same scene of the rocky wooded coastline of Sweden where he lives.

Every single painting.

And now we come to my canna, the canna musifolia bulb (or is it called a rhizome?) that I ordered from 
Horn Canna Farm, a family farm in Carnegie, OK. 

RH planted it for me in a favorite heavy old concrete pot from the old house that had lost its bottom. It is beautifully aged, much as Povel's face is, and is sunk into the ground in the butterfly garden.

I've taken hundreds of pictures of this canna because I wanted it so badly. RH is prejudiced against cannas. He won't admit that but I know he is. Many people are, maybe remembering them planted in the middle of old tractor tires out in a farm yard. To me they always said, This is a farmhouse and so there must be cannas.

While a baby, my canna had to be protected from BreeBree jumping into it in her obsessive desire to catch a chipmunk, but it grew...

And grew until RH began to be fond of it too.

Finally it flowered...

Okay, the flowers aren't what sell cannas but the hummingbirds do love them.

We took pictures of it from every angle...

It put on more and more stalks...

Soon RH got used to me yelling to grab the camera and go get pictures of my canna, the light is just right.

I mean, is this plant not gorgeous with the sun shining through its bronze leaves?

This brown-eyed Susan has been a beautiful companion on one side, even though mostly finished blooming by now, the seeds drawing goldfinches.

And this Autumn Joy sedum has been a nice contrast on the other side. It's beginning to pink up for Autumn. [The plant is much more rosy now as I wrote this post a week ago.]The deer keep our other three Autumn Joy plants nibbled to the ground in our front garden but they can't get to this one.

I'm tagging my other canna lover...

                    Carla from The River 

before I close with a quote about cannas from a beloved book by Richardson Wright that stays on my bed table, The Gardener's Bed-Book.

Give a dog a bad name, and he may eventually retrieve his reputation, but let a flower suffer the sneers of the gardening cognoscenti, and all the fine hybrids of it that some faithful soul may create will flower to little advantage. Cannas are a case in point. Mention them, and across the mind flashes unlovely memories of dreary park, prison and hospital flower beds. For years the Canna was an institutional flower, and that's enough to damn any plant. Yet some very beautiful hybrids have been created and at the sight of them we waxed ecstatic over their subtle pinks and yellows. They have ceased being institutional.
Richardson Wright
The Gardener's Bed-Book

 What about you? How do you feel about cannas? Or if not cannas, is there a plant that you just would not have in your garden?

if you've never loved cannas planted in the ground, have you ever thought about putting them in pots?

I keep imagining how magnificent two of these would be in large urns on either side of a path leading somewhere. What do you think?

And let me know if you want to see more pictures of my gorgeous canna that adds a vertical feature to our garden. 

Just like Povel Wallander, I have a million of them.

Hey, sweet readers, thank you so much for visiting me here at the Window! And thank you so much for your thoughtful and kind comments on my previous post about our darling granddaughters. 

You are the best!

"And what would life be like
if we paid one another no compliments?"
wonders Isabel in
The Careful Use of Compliments
by Alexander McCall Smith