Snooty ghosts hovered around old houses along the winding road to the Inn that brought passers by to inviting nooks and crannies. Inside the lobby of the Inn, starched people laughed and sipped cold beverages. Outside, a veranda displayed a view of the water with a faraway mountain watermark in the hazy pale sky. The dim library housed well-aged books, and as I entered the room the wood floor creaked like an ornery granny reprimanding me for not being more ladylike in my footsteps. The shelves were filled with titles from a time that only those beyond had experienced. Alone in the room with just the hundreds of us, I felt that I was about to be entrusted with their secrets. I ran my finger along their spines and stopped at the title, Now Or Never, or, The Adventures of Bobby Bright by Oliver Optic*.
Here’s a simple evening exercise to help you gently step away from overly complicated living. One of the greatest conveniences of brief mental time travel (or going off the cultural grid) is that it doesn’t cost anything. No fancy machinery, expensive tickets, long lines, or invasive security searches need be involved. In fact it’s the opposite!
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.
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 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.
One of our wedding gifts was a pair of brass candlesticks that we decided to place in Wayne’s office. When I saw how nice they looked I wanted to keep an eye out for others knowing they add a romantic touch to winter. It’s always a difficult mental and emotional transition in November when the sun sets before 4:30 p.m. so natural light is a gift. Then, a few weeks ago at an estate sale I saw vintage brass and hand blown glass candlesticks on the floor and mantle of the home’s fireplace! I made a beeline and bought all of them for only $40. (It was also Wayne’s first ever estate sale with me since he used to work Saturdays until recently which makes them extra special.) As a wedding gift to ourselves we completed them by ordering a beautiful selection of beeswax candles made in the U.S.A. to replace the cheap and toxic paraffin tapers in use.