Sunday, November 30, 2014

Out With the Old, In With the Not So Old

The scent of Thanksgiving lingers in the air. I lit my pumpkin scented candle to freshen the house mostly because I cleaned the oven yesterday, filling the house with the odor of burnt-on drippings and splatters turning to ash.

Faded memories of our little Thanksgiving meal still linger, too, reduced to a pile of my special ingredients and a few secrets to make old, traditional family recipes new. Take for example an American Thanksgiving staple: pumpkin pie. My mom's big secret was using winter squash instead of pumpkin because that's what dad grew. No one knew the difference.

The Head Gardener's grandma made the best pumpkin pie, according to that side of the family, scoffing at the suggestion that we might try squash instead. After grandma Martha passed, I took up the challenge to bake the pies for the Thanksgiving feast.

They didn't get rave reviews. Instead: "Well, it is good, but not as good as grandma's. There's something missing." Funny because I used the same recipe, the one on the back of Libby's pumpkin can as grandma did. So I quit making pumpkin pie, opting for my own speciality, pecan pie from a recipe that my brother shared with me years ago. Now it is a tradition here.

I did make pumpkin pie for hubby Thursday, receiving the best compliment ever: "Now that is as good as my grandmother's," he raved.

 I have learned the hard way not to try to compete with the sacred recipes that our grandmothers used because we never can get them right. They had their secrets: a pinch of that, an extra dab that that, never use that.They used lard instead of butter for pie crust, and they made pie crust by using a fork to mix the ingredients instead of a Cuisinart.  My biggest modification to cut calories was the substation of sugar with Truvia baking blend--half sugar and half sugar substitute. I made a good pie.

 With the modernization of Christmas and the technical glitz and glamor, and the plastic decorations, those of us who have celebrated Christmas for decades, including the last century have the fondest memories of helping grandma decorate her fresh tree or the excitement of going to the mountains with the grandparents to hunt and cut the prefect tree. My grandparents had a cabin west of Denver tucked away in a little valley called Beaver Brook. Named Shangri La by my grandmother, the cabin property held special magic and offered the best, most perfect Christmas trees. We'd take dad's little gray Willie's jeep to forge through the deep snow inching our way into the valley. We always found the prefect tree. My birthday is December 20, so the tree went up on my birthday and come down New Year's.

I bought a new tree last week at Hobby Lobby and donated the old one to ARC. Out with the old, in with the new.

Jennifer invited me over last week to have a craft day with the girls, wanting to start a new tradition.  We made snow globes, used lots of glitter, and finally ran out of patience. Jen sent home this cute little snowman that she made for me and one for each of the girls. I put him in my jar that I use for refrigerator pickles. He tends to be a bit wobbly, but I wobble sometimes, too. He will be a part of my Christmas until I don't do Christmas anymore.

I really must learn to just stay out of the stores because I find stuff. The bargain of the week last week while the Head Gardener was off finishing up corn harvest was a crystal chandelier. The mosaic tells the story. Out with the old, ugly brassy thing that was original to the house and in with a not as old as I thought it was crystal chandelier.

Our old house had a gorgeous (some would call gaudy '70s) crystal chandelier that I cherished. As a young married couple, we would drive by that house saying to each other that we would never have a house that grand. We were poor as church mice living ironically in a church parsonage. Life does hold some surprises. Fifteen years later the house was on the market and we were able to buy it where we lived for 18 years. We sold the house to a lovely young couple with a new baby so that we could move here to the Garden Spot. The first thing the new owners did was to remove the beautiful crystal chandelier. I was heart broken, but I just had to realize that they owned the house and they could do whatever they wanted. Me too. Today hubby hung the chandelier that I found in one of our local antique stores. Not as old as I thought it was, it sparkles and glitters, giving the house much needed glitz.

Today's tips: Cleaning oven racks. With the interior of my oven nice and clean, I fumed over the badly crusted oven racks that should have been sparkling chrome. I googled how to clean them: soak them in hot water in the bathtub with dishwasher soap. I used Cascade. In an hour or so the racks were ready to be scrubbed, the caked-on grease and burned food feel off easily as I used a Scotch Brite to scrub.

To get the crystals sparkling, I used a bit of warm water with ammonia added, my go-to for washing glass.

Amongst my blogger friends the consensus of Black Friday seemed to be "I avoided it." Yeah. Me, too. I did go to town to run a few errands, but escaped the foray of crazed bargain hunters. This week I will work on decorating and hopefully get my gift sewing started. 

Thanks so much for taking time to visit. I hope you have a great week. You will find my chandelier mosaic over at Judith's Lavender Cottage along with other wonderful mosaics.


  1. Love your sparkly chandelier, Ann!! It's so pretty! What a shame the new owners of your previous home took down the chandelier; it's too bad they didn't ask you if you wanted it.

    I agree that we can't compete with mother's and grandmother's recipes. My dad always reminds us that mom's or grandmother's was the best. :) I hope you'll share your pecan pie recipe; I love a good pecan pie and hubby and I are on a pecan pie kick at the moment. I LOVE, LOVE your snow globe with the snowman; it's just precious. I've been planning to try and make my own snow globes around here; I'll just have to see how my time works out.

    I know the memories of going into the mountains and picking the perfect tree are precious. We have the same memories here. The difference is the tree farm workers cut the trees down for us. Going to the mountains for our tree every Christmas is one of our very special traditions. I'm glad you had a good Thanksgiving and hope you have a nice week!



  2. I just love your photos and the way you write!
    Have a nice week, Ann!

  3. Oh my Ann, the light fixture you took down is a twin to what we have over our dining room table. I had a chandelier with all the dangly prisms in our first house but how I hated cleaning it, and it was brass too. Now, I wish I'd stored it in a box for when I'd want one again. For now, I sticking with what I have unless I find a glass one like yours. LOL
    I know what you mean about the recipes, and I'm the same in that I'll improvise and not mark down on the recipe what I've done.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

  4. The craft day sure sounds like something I would have enjoyed, too! I love your sweet snowman scene. I made a few snowmen this's fun! Have a good evening my friend! Hugs, Diane

  5. Your sparkly chandelier is lovely and the story that goes along with it equally so. How fun to have a craft day with the girls even if the result is less than perfect. Love the story about the pies - it's hard to compete with Grandma's cooking!
    Have a wonderful week and I hope we see peeks of your Christmas sewing. I'll be doing that this week, too.

  6. I always love the way you write your stories. As far as I know squash pie is as good as pumpkin. Your little treasure of Jen, the snowman, carefully stored and shining in a glass yar, lovely. Then the chandelier mosaic, so nice, actually I think your old lamp is as nice as the chrystal one, only always a trouble to keep the brass bright. So, let the glittering light shine on you! Wish you a happy week, sewing and decorating the house!

  7. Hello Ann, old family recipes, seems that it is the same everywhere :-). I love the description of the little jeep in the snow making its way to the perfect Christmas tree. Will we have snow this year? And the day out for crafting and what came out of it - love the wobbly snowman and have now the picture of wobbly Ann :-))) The chandelier is gorgeous - even if it needs some TLC from time to time. Was just trying to remember what my friend told me about cleaning oven racks, no fuzz, no scrub over night soaking and then washing off - shall investigate. You know what: this terribly 'Black Friday hype' has arrived here ----- we could have done without it. Will send you something soon.

  8. Found it: put racks on the tray, sprinkle a teaspoon or two of ammonia over it, seal in a bin bag and leave it over night. Wash off. She tried it and it worked, I shall do it this week and will report back.

  9. I always avoid Black Friday...I hated the name. I cherish those old recipes too and love to add my own twist too!

  10. Oh I love your chandelier - old or newer, it is still wonderful. I think every house should have a pretty chandelier. We are beginning to decorate for christmas - what fun!!!!

  11. Love your new chandelier - gives a sparkley bit of bling to the room.

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  13. Enjoyed the story about the light fixture. I have one over my dining table from the late 60's/early 70's. Some say is is outdated, and some are standing in line waiting for me to replace it. LOL
    Hope you are enjoying the weekend.
    Thanks for stopping by.