Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

About thirty years ago my mother gave me several vintage Valentines and managed to pass on her fondness for emphera to me.  Unfortunately, according to my husband, she also passed on her love of dolls, dishes, granite ware, antique and vintage cooking implements, quilts, baby shoes, antique furniture, etc., etc., etc…  🙂

Now whenever I see vintage Valentines I think of my mom.  For me the memories and feelings that my collections invoke are one of the most precious things about collecting.   I don’t really consider myself a Valentine collector, I just happen to be a person who owns several dozen vintage Valentines.  I’m not really sure what the magic number is that you have to pass, to turn the things you own into a collection, but I don’t think I’ve gotten there quite yet.

In addition to my vintage Valentines, I also save Valentines from my husband, children and friends.  I have one friend who often hand makes all of the Valentines that she sends out.  I tell  myself that I need to do the same, but I have to admit that I rarely manage to fit in time to make my own.  If you are better at time management than I am and would like to try your hand at making Valentine Puzzle Purses, you can find the directions here. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Scottish Shortbread

1 pound butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add flour a little at a time until it makes a stiff dough.  Pat into a large cookie sheet or 9 x 13 pan, or roll and cut out with tin cookie cutters.  Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) for 30 minutes or till golden.  If you baked one large sheet, cut it into squares as soon as you remove it from the oven and cool in the pan.

Last Christmas Christine Crocker posted a wonderful idea for shortbread. It’s taken me over a year, but I finally gave it a try. 🙂 Drop in and read Christine’s post, it’s sure to start you on a mad hunt for pressed glass!


(Fanny Pierson Crane, Her Receipts, 1796, adaptation)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1- 1/2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup cracked chocolate (pieces)

Cream together butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla and stir well.  Mix dry ingredients together and stir into creamed mixture. Fold in chocolate.  Drop from a heaping tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Bake in a medium hot oven for 12-15 minutes.  (for the cookies shown in the photo I substituted cinnamon chips for the cracked chocolate pieces)

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Cookbooks sitting on a 19th century Texas table in original black paint, made by my great great grandfather.

Today is the 202nd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  One of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln is one that he often told about his extreme fondness for gingerbread.

Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and some ginger and mix us up a batch of gingerbread.  It wasn’t often and it was our biggest treat.  One day I smelled it and came into the house to get my share while it was hot.  I found she had baked me three gingerbread men, and I took them out under a hickory tree to eat them.

There was family near us, who were a little poorer than we were, and their boy came along as I sat down.  “Abe,” he said, edging close, “gimme a man.”      I gave him one.  He crammed it into his mouth at two bites and looked at me while I bit the legs from my first one.  “Abe,” he said, “gimme that other’n.”  I wanted it, but I gave it to him, and as it followed the first one I said, “You seem to like gingerbread.”  “Abe,” he said earnestly, “I don’t s’pose there’s anybody on this earth likes gingerbread as well as I do,” – and drawing a sigh that brought up crumbs – “an’ I don’t s’pose there’s anybody gets less of it.”

You can read about this encounter and many other fascinating Lincoln food facts along with period recipes in Lincoln’s Table A president’s Culinary Journey from Cabin to Cosmopolitan by Donna D. McCreary, ISBN 978-0-9795383-1-5.  For even more Lincoln recipes, turn to Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie ISBN 0-486-40614-8.  Mary Todd Lincoln is known to have purchased a copy of this receipt book when the Lincoln’s were residing in Illinois.

These are two receipts that I enjoy, in case you would like to bake some gingerbread to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.

Eli Whitney’s Grandmother’s Chewy Ginger Cookies

Eli Whitney (1765-1825) dearly loved these cookies that his grandmother made.

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon each of cinnamon & ginger

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup molasses

1/4 cup sour milk

4 cups flour

Blend butter, soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Add sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the egg, molasses and sour milk.  Gradually stir in the flour.  Drop from the tip of a teaspoon on to greased baking sheets.  Let stand for 10 minutes, then flatten cookies with a glass covered with a damp cloth.  Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 12 to 15 minutes.

Rum Gingerbread

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

2- 1/2 cups flour

1- 3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup molasses

3/4 cup hot water

1/4 cup rum

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Combine butter, sugar and egg.  Stir in dry ingredients alternately with the molasses, water and rum.  Pour into a buttered 9 x 12- inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  You may substitute buttermilk for the water and rum.

Sorghum Gingerbread

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

12 teaspoon cloves

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup lard

1 cup sorghum

1 cup hot water

Stir the dry ingredients together.  Mix the lard, butter and hot water together and when melted,pour into the flour mixture.  Stir well, then add the eggs and sorghum and stir again.  Spoon the batter into a buttered and floured baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

If you share Mr. Lincoln’s love of gingerbread you may also want to find these books:

Gingerbread 99 Delicious Recipes from Sweet to Savory by Linda Merinoff.

Gingerbread Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream and Candy by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn.

The Gingerbread Book by Allen Bragdon.

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Hearts from my home to yours…

A sewing box I made on an early 19th century PA table with salmon paint, surrounded by antique sewing implements and a heart made from 1850-60's quilt scraps.

An 18th century foot warmer.

Heart details on one of my christening pillows.
























If these photographs have made you yearn for more, I can suggest Mary Emmerling’s American Country Hearts ISBN # 0-517-56989-2 and the textile section of Peggy McClard Antiques, which has some of the most beautiful love token pen wipers that I have ever seen.

Sewing boxes and infant pincushions can be found on my website.  To read more about the charming infant pincushions known as christening pillows try Small Folk a Celebration of Childhood in America.

The heart and hand pin shown above was made by Hammersong.  The heart wall pocket was made by Vermont tinsmith David Claggett.


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If you have been looking for a Valentine’s Day project, let me suggest two heart-shaped pincushions from the Amusing Work section of  The American Girl’s Book; or, Occupation for Play Hours by Miss Eliza Leslie, Boston: Munroe and Francis; New York: C.S. Francis, 1831.












The American Girl’s Book, or Girl’s Own Book as is printed on the spine and cover title, contains games, plays, riddles and sewing projects for young girls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, it became a childhood standard whose immense popularity resulted in 16 editions in its first 23 years alone. The final paragraph of the introduction to the book states, “The author of this little book has not aimed at compiling a juvenile encyclopedia. – It is simply an unpretending manual of light and exhilarating amusements; most of which will be found on trial to answer the purpose of unbending the mind or exercising the body, and at the same time interesting the attention.”

Miss Leslie, author of The American Girl’s Book, was an amazingly prolific writer and editor, all the more astonishing for a woman during the time in which she lived. Eliza Leslie was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Robert Leslie and Lydia Baker Leslie on November 15, 1787 and died at the age of 70 in Gloucester, New Jersey on January 1, 1858.

When her first cookbook, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, was published in 1828, it was credited as being written by “a Lady of Philadelphia”.  By 1831, Miss Leslie felt confident enough to publish The American Girl’s Book under her own name. Her written works for children and adults include a novel, short stories, magazine articles, cookbooks, and manuals on housekeeping and etiquette.

Miss Leslie edited an annual book entitled The Gift that included such illustrious contributors as Edgar Allan Poe. In 1843, she edited Miss Leslie’s Magazine, which contained the writings of Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Park Benjamin, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow among others. The magazine underwent two name changes before eventually merging with Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1846.

By the end of her life, Miss Leslie was a well-established celebrity in Philadelphia and known for her work throughout the United States. In fact, Mary Todd Lincoln is known to have purchased one of Miss Leslie’s cookbooks while the Lincolns were living in Illinois.

Many of Miss Leslie’s receipts, games and projects, like these pincushions, are as delightful now as they were 180 years ago. Intended as a sewing project for a beginning seamstress, the pincushions are  a wonderful parent and child project or a charming Valentine’s gift for any of your dear friends that sew.  I think that Miss Leslie would be pleased that her “amusing work” is still “interesting the attention” of people today.

Project Instructions

A Heart Pincushion

Cut two pieces of linen into the shape of a half-handkerchief.  Sew them  together, leaving a small open space at the top, and stuff them very hard with bran, or wool.  When sufficiently stuffed, sew up the opening and cover the pincushion with silk, sewed very neatly over the edge.  Then make two upper corners of the pincushion meet, and fasten them well together.  This will bring the pincushion into the shape of a heart.  Put a string to the top.  Emery bags are frequently made in this manner.  Pincushions should always be stuffed with bran, wool, or flannel.  Cotton will not do.

1. I started this project by cutting out a 7 inch square of linen and of red polished cotton for the pincushion and a 2-1/4 inch square of canvas (I picked canvas over linen to keep the emery from seeping through the weave)  and a 2-1/4 inch square of red polished cotton for the emery.  I didn’t have any red or pink silk on hand, but I did have some lovely vintage scarlet polished cotton.  You may certainly cut to triangles like the original instructions advise, or you may decide to simple fold a square, like I did and skip sewing one seam. 🙂   You may also change the size of the triangles/squares until they meet your preference.

2.  I folded my squares into a triangle and sewed along the edges of the linen, leaving an opening for stuffing, then turned them right side out.  I repeated this step with the polished cotton, leaving quite a large opening in one side so that I could insert the linen triangles after they were stuffed.





3.  Stuff your pincushion firmly with wool.  I find bran very difficult to come by, and Miss Leslie was absolutely correct in stating that cotton will not do, because it is quite difficult to stick pins into something that is firmly stuffed with cotton.  If you are making an emery, it is easiest to pour the emery into the opening using a small baby’s spoon.   Sew the openings closed after stuffing.

4. Slip the stuffed triangles into the decorative outer covers and sew the opening in the seam closed with matching thread.

5. Stitch two points of your triangle firmly together and put a string or ribbon through the top.  I chose to use silk ribbon that I dyed to match my scarlet fabric.

A Bunch of Hearts

Cut out ten or twelve hearts of double paste board; that is two pieces of pasteboard for each heart.  Cover them with different shades of red silk, crimson, scarlet and pink, sewing them very neatly at the edges.  Sew a string of narrow ribbon to the top of each, and tie the ends of all the strings together.  Stick pins round the edge of each pincushion where the two sides unite.  These  bunches of hearts look very pretty when hung on a toilet-glass.

1. To start this project I cut out several paper hearts and chose the one I liked best.  Then I traced the shape of the paper heart on to lightweight card board.  You will need two pieces of cardboard for each heart you make.  Next I cut out the cardboard hearts.

2.  I used my paper heart to trace the same shape onto red polished cotton, adding 3/8th of an inch for a seam allowance all the way around. Then I cut out the fabric hearts.

3. I stitched the two fabric heart together, making sure that the right sides of the fabric were turned to the inside.   Make a 1/4 inch seam, you need that extra 1/8 inch for the thickness of the cardboard. Leave a large opening in one side so that you can insert the cardboard.

4. Turn the heart right side out, tuck two cardboard hearts into the fabric heart.  Sew the opening closed and sew a matching ribbon to the top of the heart.

5.  Add pins around the edges, I used vintage brass pins.  Repeat to your heart’s content. 🙂  Then dangle them from the mirror of your dressing table (aka toilet-glass).

One Additional Heart

Since I already had all of the right fabric and notions out, I did make one more heart.  I was inspired by a photograph of a lovely heart that  Christine Crocker posted on her blog last February.

I chose one of my cutout paper hearts and traced it onto the front side of my red polished cotton with a pencil, next I added a 1/2 inch seam allowance and cut the heart out of a double thickness of fabric.

I pinned the two fabric hearts together and handstiched along the pencil line, leaving an opening along one side of the heart.  Next, without tying off my thread, I stuffed the heart firmly with cotton, then finished sewing along my pencil guideline.

Finally I hand pinked the edges using a sharp pair of embroidery scissors.  Pinking sheers will not work for this, you must hand pink.

While I don’t love my heart quite as much as I do Christine’s, I am quite pleased with the results.  I think it would be fun to make up one to hang in every window (in my case that means I need to get busy and make 42 more!)

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The following is the verse written upon an intricately folded and paper cut 18th century Valentine.  Both the sender and his recipient were residents of New Milford, Connecticut.

Come, Mary dear, and let me twine
A wreath round thee, my Valentine.
I love those jetty laughing eyes
Altho they fill my heart with sighs.
As twinkling stars in dark midnight.
Like brilliant meteors, they impart
A light that penetrates my heart.
And, Oh, that form so neat and straight,
That moves along with graceful gait,
Methinks that Venus cannot be
Compared in lovliness to thee.

But, Oh, dear Mary, how I wish
You were a tender, little fish.
That I might take my Rod and line
And catch you for my Valentine.
And when at eve I went to sup
I’d cook you well and eat you up.
Or if you were a Bird like mine
That’s cut upon this Valentine,
I’d go and get my fowling piece
And shoot you dead as slick as grease.
Then I’d preserve you in a cage
To gaze upon your fine plumage.
Or I might send for Mr. Peale
To fix your feathers so genteel.
That he might offer a large sum
To put you in his museum.
But you are neither bird nor fish
And so there is no use to wish.
You are a lovely human being
As everyone knows by seeing,
But everybody cannot see
As pretty things as you and me
And I’m in hopes you’ll still incline
to come and be my Valentine.

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Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new with images of the  holiday season.

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I love old photographs, whether they are family keepsakes, or glimpses of strangers that provide windows into the world of the past.  I also believe in living with and using my antique collections.

A whimsical and inexpensive way to decorate for any holiday is to alter pieces from your photo collection to fit the occasion.

Here is How I Do It:

I’m sure everyone who loves antiques already knows that heat and light are two major villains when it comes to preserving antiques.   I do try to store and display my antique photos in safe locations.   However I also think having a back-up copy of your photographs, just in case, is a good idea.  You can either scan your original photographs ( here is where the heat and light comes in), or choosing the better conservation choice – photograph them using a digital camera without a flash.  Once you have a copy of your photographs made and stored you are ready to move on to the fun part of this project.

Method #1 – Take your stored image and using Photoshop alter the image by adding seasonal accessories.  In my case this also means talking one of my very computer and graphic literate family members into doing it for me :).  For this photo I had my son add a witch’s hat to a photograph of my great-grandmother Henrietta Josephine Wallace Prather.  He also layered in part of another photograph of one of our cats sitting on a pumpkin.  No, he didn’t have to Photoshop the cat onto the pumpkin, she just happened to like sitting on pumpkins!  Weird cat… enough said.

Method #2 – Print out a high quality copy of your stored photograph, then get out your pencils, pens and markers and draw in all of the details that you would like to add.  In this example I used a photo that I purchased of two young siblings( because I liked their clothing) and drew in witch’s hats.  After I finished, I re-scanned the altered photo.  However you wouldn’t have to re-scan if you want to just use the photo as is.

What can you do with your altered goodies???  Anything you can imagine.  You can re-size and print your images in dozens of different ways.  Try printing on card stock, vellum, fabric, photo paper, business card stock and labels.

I turned my witchy version of Henrietta Josephine into a Halloween necklace by printing it on vellum and tucking it into a glass locket frame, to which I added a sheer black ribbon.

My two tiny witches look adorable in a black vintage frame and they also made fun necklaces to give to dozen and a half friends.  To make the necklaces I printed the altered photo on fabric that is specially treated and backed for use in an ink jet printer.  I cut out the fabric photos, added a plain piece of fabric for the back, then stitched them together to form a pocket,  I bound the edges with black twill tape which also forms the hanging cord.  I added a velcro dot fastener inside the top edge to secure valuables, then sparkled things up a bit by gluing on glitter accents.  Sew on buttons and other trimmings if you desire.

Happy Halloween, I hope you enjoy creating your own “haunted” photographs!

The instructions, photographs and project ideas in this article are all copyright 2010 by Paula Walton.

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Birth-day Pudding

Butter a deep dish, and lay in slices of bread and butter, wet with milk, and upon these sliced tart apples, sweetened and spiced.   Then lay on another layer of bread and butter and apples, and continue thus till the dish is filled.  Let the top layer be bread and butter, and dip it in milk, turning the buttered side down.  Any other kind of fruit will answer as well.  Put a plate on the top, and bake two hours, then take it off and bake another hour.

This receipt (aka recipe) is from Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book by Catherine E. Beecher.  Catherine Esther Beecher was born in 1800 in East Hampton, Long Island.  She founded the Hartford Female Seminary in 1823 as well as other schools for young women in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.  She wrote A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841) and Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book (1846).


After buttering my dishes I dusted them with sugar, before layering in the bread and butter.

I cut the crusts off my bread, as the pudding was for a special occasion, but you certainly don’t have to.  I saved the crusts as a treat for the wild birds in my yard.  You may also save them to make  stuffings, bread crumbs, or croutons.

I chose cinnamon, mace and nutmeg as my spices.

I baked my doll sized pudding in a custard cup, which would also be nice if you want to bake yours in individual portions.

If you wish to use a modern oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake puddings for 15 minutes, then  reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and continued baking for the remaining 2 hours and 45 minutes.  I removed my doll size pudding from the oven after 30 minutes of total baking time.  Your baking time is going to depend a lot on the size of your dishes and the thickness of your pudding, so check your oven fairly frequently.  It’s also a good idea to put a cookie sheet under your dish, because my pudding bubbled over as it was baking.

If you are baking your pudding on the hearth, you may bake it in a beehive oven, dutch oven or a reflector oven.  When using a beehive oven, place the pudding on one of the cooler spots in your beehive.  If you use a dutch oven or reflector oven, make sure that you do not cook the pudding at too high a temperature.

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