Can you tell I love Christmas decorating? Did you know that the REAL reason vintage aluminum trees need to be used with a color wheel is because the trees are highly flammable? String lights are out! However, color wheels produce a beautiful light show once the sun sets.
If you’re not from Maine, you might think the above photo is of a homemade Mounds candy bar. You’re close! But you’d probably be shocked to learn that they contain mashed potatoes in the coconut centers! They are a delicious traditional Maine candy called “Needhams” which have also historically been called “potato candy” or “potato fudge”. However, if you are from Maine and familiar with Needhams you may be surprised to discover that the modern version has gone far astray from yesterday’s healthier and more wholesome homemade versions dating as far back as 1924.
When I was little the idea of Santa Claus gave me permission to dream beyond my means and reality. It didn’t matter what was happening in my life, the realities of budgets or whether he would deliver. When I made my list and handed it to my Nana, “Santa’s Helper” as she referred to herself, there was an exciting passage of a few weeks when it seemed that anything was possible.
I’m not sure what month the vintage photo was taken, but it likely wasn’t in November! We’ve had record-breaking snowfall this month. It’s ironic because it was only a week and a half ago that Wayne insisted we order that day the sparkly new two-stage snowblower to replace our existing single-stage. I wanted to wait until closer to December so that we could see how it performed in an actual storm and still be within the 30 day window to return it if he didn’t like it. I gave in but not without a bit of an eyeball roll and a comment about his being overly cautious. Well, it won’t be here until this weekend so to make up for it (and burn some calories in advance of tomorrow!) I hand shoveled our entire driveway three times yesterday as a surprise for Wayne for when he got home from work!
Within my collection of vintage Maine and New England community cook books dating back to the early 1900s are dozens and dozens of recipes for “Indian Pudding.” It’s a humble, mildly sweet and spicy baked cornmeal dessert served warm and paired with whipped or iced cream. Each recipe is as unique as the contributor. Even within one cook book there are sometimes multiple variations offered: Lottie adds tapioca, no eggs while Cora uses eggs and no tapioca. Mary bakes hers in a “slow oven” (lower temp) for four hours while Alice only bakes her for 1 1/2. After carefully reviewing my vintage sources I am offering you my own kitchen and taste tested (plus Wayne approved!) adaptation that’s made in a cast iron dutch oven. (This is an updated recipe from last year with new photos taken this morning!)
For those of you who are gluten-free, your store-bought options are limited if you want stuffing that is free from Xanthan gum (I bring this up from time to time. Xanthan gum is in almost all gluten-free baked items. It’s the by-product of bacteria feeding on sugar that can have a laxative effect among other unwanted side-effects. No thanks!)
For those of you who love your gluten, you may love my recipe as much as Wayne does. It’s made from whole grain oat and corn flour with added fruits, then baked in an iron skillet. With the recent turkey salmonella scare it’s a good idea to not stuff your turkey and make a safe and delicious stuffing that’s just as good. Here is my favorite and original recipe.
For the past five or so years I think of my special late friend “Mrs. T”, may she rest in peace, when I set up my vintage aluminum Christmas tree. For a year I visited with Mrs. T weekly at a local assisted living home for the elderly. She loved to hear about my yard sale adventures and what I had bought. “We used to call it junkin'” she informed me. Not that it matters, but Mrs. T was a very elegant lady. When I told her in the summer that I had purchased a beautiful vintage aluminum tree at a moving sale where the basement had been a private winter square dance hall she was thrilled! Not because of the square dancing but the tree: “I always wanted one but my husband wouldn’t allow it. He said it was tacky.”
By “it” I mean unofficial winter, but on the positive side the weather is cooperating with early Christmas decorating. We have blustery winds, was in the teens this morning, my car door and trunk were frozen shut and we’re getting
3-5 5-8(!!) inches of snow tomorrow night! Vintage Christmas decorating definitely takes some of the chill out of it for me. To begin, I added some modern lights to my Victorian Fairy Christmas store display soap box. I think the lights look rather retro, almost like an old time marquis.
My experience from both sides of the “couch” has taught me that there’s nothing simple about PTSD nightmares. The things I tried in my teens and twenties–using food and alcohol to try and bury and drown them, sometimes to the point of blacking out, created new real-life nightmare scenarios. In my late twenties through my forties I was afraid to go to sleep; I averaged about five broken hours a night. When I did sleep, and the nightmares struck, I woke up extremely exhausted.
I wish I could say that I am now completely free of nightmares and experience restful sleep. The good news is that I have made incredible progress over the past couple of years. I have fewer nightmares, am not terrified of going to sleep and am making my peace with them.