Monday, November 29, 2010



Yes, it’s true that garland is relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased almost anywhere. It wasn’t so in days of yore, and rural families most often simply made their own. What the garland was made of depended on what was available, but most commonly popcorn was used.
Want to try to make your own? If so, make it an experience, something the family can do together, that will make for fond memories. Put on Christmas music, or one of your favorite movies. Serve cocoa or hot cider and Christmas cookies.
Make an extra bowl of regular popcorn for the family, since the kids are probably going to eat it as they help make the garland, unbuttered and stale, or not
Use good judgment in how old your child needs to be to handle a sewing needle, and supervise them well. For a very young child, you can set them to the task of alternately handing you cranberries and popcorn.
We made popcorn and cranberry strings this weekend. It’s a family tradition. My mother always made them for our trees as I was growing up, and we have always had them on our Christmas tree. After a long day of decorating, stringing popcorn and cranberries is a great sit-down-and-rest-your-feet-while-you-watch-a-movie job.
It takes six bags of cranberries to make enough strings to decorate a 9′ Christmas tree.
Make the strings about 9’ long. They are easy to carry into the living room and attach one section at a time. Leave a 6-7″ tail on each end and tie those together when the string goes on the tree. I like to hang them with ornament hooks to give the loops a nice scalloped definition.
Here’s a hint for stringing popcorn and cranberries, the popcorn will string more easily if it is a day or two old. Freshly popped corn can certainly be used, but it breaks more easily. Use loose popcorn, not microwave popcorn, for the strings. It takes a lot. DD popped three large bowls full and we used it all. I like to use Orville Redenbacher’s white popping corn. It pops large and has a clean white color. If you can not find this use the yellow

We used 12 pound test fishing line ( you can also use dental floss) and a heavyweight sewing needle for stringing. Tie a knot 4-6″ from the end. We start with a cranberry and thread through it twice to keep it from slipping off the end. And we finish the section with a piece of popcorn, but do not tie that end with a knot. Be sure to lay your strings out with the knotted end at the same end of the table, so you can easily pick up the popcorn end to prevent the popcorn and cranberries from slipping off the string.


In a small southern town there was a "Nativity Scene" that showed great skill and talent had gone intocreating it. One small feature bothered me. The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets.
Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left. At a "Quik Stop" on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets.
She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You darn Yankees never do read the Bible!"
I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible.
She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled thru some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face she said "See, it says right here, 'The three wise man came from afar.


Wassail is a hot beverage that hails from the mid-17th century. Wassail was a way of bringing friends and family together to celebrate the last of the harvest. In this version, apples, pears and ale combine in a warm concoction to brace the soul against a harsh winter.


1 lb cooking apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gravenstein
½ lb semi-ripe pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou
1 gal nut-brown ale
5 whole cinnamon sticks
3 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup sugar, to taste
pinch of salt


large stockpot
casserole dish
deep, large bowl
potato peeler
potato masher or large wooden spoon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and core the fruit using a paring knife or a dedicated apple corer; you want to only take out the stem and seeds from the fruit. It's okay to push the corer completely through the apples and pears. Discard the cores.
Arrange the apples and pears snugly in a high-walled casserole dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and put into heated oven.
Cook fruit for approximately 50 minutes or until they begin to explode. This bursting is relatively small because the fruit is merely splitting its skin.
Take fruit out of oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
During the time that the apples and pears are cooling, heat the ale over a medium temperature in a large stockpot.
Add the spices to the ale and stir to incorporate. Wait to add the sugar until after the apples and pears are included in the mixture.
When the fruit is cool enough to hold, peel and place into a deep, large bowl.
Using a potato masher or a large wooden spoon, crush the cooked fruit pulp so that it's roughly the same texture as mashed potatoes.
Add the fruit pulp to the stockpot and mix well. Let the drink simmer for a few minutes, then taste and add sugar and/or salt to taste.
Keep simmering the ale at a low temperature until you serve it.
Ladle mugs full of steaming ale and apple/pear pulp into waiting mugs

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