Nov 26, 2010

An Old Fashion Christmas Event Week 1: Of Paper

A merry Christmas to you all!!! Now we can officially start my Old-Fashion Christmas Event!!! Are you excited?
Every week (for six weeks all the way to Christmas Eve), I will be posting a big post complete with giveaway, video tutorials, stories, poems, you name it, but during the week, I will be posting links to great sites for tutorials. Your job will be to link up your tutorial posts at the bottom of each WEEKLY post. Understood? Great! Let's get started!

I have some great tutorials, links, stories, and so much more to share with you!!!

Now, then, before we get started why don't you read the story which so inspired me to start this event!!! This is such a heartfelt story, not to mention festive and inspiring! Whenever I read this short story by Paul Engle, I want to visit this excited family in a time long gone by...

~An Old Fashion, Iowa Christmas~
Paul Engle

Every Christmas should begin with the sound of bells, and when I was a child mine always did. But they were sleigh bells, not church bells, for we lived in a part of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where there were not churches. My bells were on my father's team of horses as he drove up to our horse-headed hitching post with the bobsled that would take us to celebrate Christmas on the family farm ten miles out in the country. My father would bring the team down Fifth Avenue at a smart trot, flicking his whip over the horses' rumps and making the bells double their light, thin jangling over the snow.

There are no such departures any more: the whole family piling into the bobsled with a foot of golden oat straw to lie in and heavy buffalo robes to lie under the horses stamping the soft snow, and at every motion of their hoofs the bells jingling, jingling.

There are no streets like those any more: the snow sensibly left on the road for the sake of sleighs and easy travel. We could hop off and ride the heavy runners as they made their hissing, tearing sound over the packed snow. And along the streets we met other horses, so that we moved from one set of bells to another. There would be an occasional brass-mounted automobile laboring on its narrow tires and as often as not pulled up the slippery hills by a horse, and we would pass it with a triumphant shout for an awkward nuisance which was obviously not here to stay.

The country road ran through a landscape of little hills and shallow valleys and heavy groves of timber. The great moment was when we left the road and turned up the long lane on the farm. Near the low house on the hill, with oaks on one side and apple trees on the other, my father would stand up, flourish his whip, and bring the bobsled right up to the door of the house with a burst of speed.

There are no such arrivals any more: the harness bells ringing and clashing like faraway steeples, the horses whinnying at the horses in the barn and receiving a great, trumpeting whinny in reply, the dogs leaping into the bobsled and burrowing under the buffalo robes, a squawking from the hen house, a yelling of "Whoa, whoa," at the excited horses, boy and girl cousins howling around the bobsled, and the descent into the snow with the Christmas basket carried by my mother.

While my mother and sisters went into the house, the team was unhitched and taken to the barn to be covered with blankets and given a little grain. That winter odor of a barn is a wonderfully complex one, rich and warm and utterly unlike the smell of the same barn in the summer: the body heat of many animals weighing a thousand pounds and more; pigs in one corner making their dark, brown-surrounding grunts; milk cattle still nuzzling the manager for wisps of hay; horses eyeing the newcomers; oats, hay, and straw, tangy still with the live August sunlight; the sharp odor of leather harness rubbed with neat's-foot oil to keep it supple; the molasses-sweet odor of ensilage in the silo where the fodder was almost fermenting. It is a smell from strong and living things, and my father always said it was the secret of health, that it scoured out a man's lungs. He would stand there, breathing deeply, one hand on a horse's rump, watching the steam come out from under the blankets as the team cooled down from their rapid trot up the lane. It gave him a better appetite, he argued, than plain fresh air, which was thin and had no body to it.

A barn with cattle and horses is the place to begin Christmas; after all, that's where the original event happened, and that same smell was the first air that the Christ Child breathed.
By the time we reached the house, my mother and sisters were wearing aprons and busying themselves in the kitchen, as red-faced was the women who had been there all morning. The kitchen was the biggest room in the house, and all

family life save sleeping went on in there. My uncle even had a couch along one wall where he napped and where the children lay when they were ill. The kitchen range was a tremendous black and gleaming one called a Smoke Eater, with pans bubbling over the holes above the fire box and a reservoir of hot water at the side, lined with dull copper, from which my uncle would dip a basin of water and shave above the sink, turning his lathered face now and then to drop a remark into the women's talk, waving his straight-edged razor, as if it were a threat, to make them believe him. My job was to go to the woodpile out back to split the chunks of oak and hickory and keep the fire burning.

It was a handmade Christmas. The tree came from down in the grove, and on it were many paper ornaments made by my cousins, as well as beautiful ones brought from the Black Forest, where the family had originally lived. There were popcorn balls, paper horns with homemade candy, and apples from the orchard. The gifts tended to be hand-knit socks or wool ties or fancy crocheted "yokes" for nightgowns, tatted collars for blouses, doilies with fancy flower patterns for tables, and tidies for chairs. Once I received a brilliantly polished cow horn with a cavalryman crudely but bravely carved on it. And there would usually be a cornhusk doll, perhaps with a prune or walnut face, and a gay dress of an old corset-cover scrap with its ribbons still bright. And there were real candles burning with real flames, every guest sniffed the air for the smell of scorching pine needles.

There are no dinners like that any more: every item from the farm itself, with no deep freezer , no car for driving into town for packaged food. The pies had been baked the day before, pumpkin, apple, and mince; as we ate them, we could look out the window and see the cornfield where the pumpkins grew, the trees from which the apples were picked. The bread hadbeen baked that morning, heating up the oven for the meat, and as my aunt hurried by I could smell her apron that freshest of all odors with which the human nose is honored - bread straight from the oven. There would be a huge brown crock of beans with smoked pork from the hog butchered every November.

There would be every form of preserve: wild grape from the vines in the grove, crab-apple jelly, wild blackberry and tame raspberry, strawberry from the bed in the garden, sweet and sour pickles with dill from the edge of the lane where it grew wild, pickles from the rind of the same watermelon we had cooled in the tank at the milk house and eaten on a hot September afternoon.

Cut into the slope of the hill behind the house, with a little door of its own, was the vegetable cellar, from which came carrots, turnips, cabbages, potatoes, squash. And of course there was the traditional sauerkraut, with flecks of caraway seed. I remember one Christmas Day when a ten-gallon crock of it in the basement, with a stone weighting down the lid, had blown up, driving the stone against the floor in the parlor.

All the meat was from the home place, too. Most useful of all was the goose-the very one which had chased me the summer before, hissing and darting out its bill at the end of its curving neck like a feathered snake. Here was the universal bird of an older Christmas: its down was plucked, washed, and hung in bags in the barn to be put into pillows; its awkward body was roasted until the skin was crisp as a fine paper; and the grease from its carcass was melted down, a little camphor added, and rubbed on the chests of coughing children. We ate, slept on, and wore that goose.

And of course the trimmings were from the farm, too: the hickory-nut cake made with nuts gathered in the grove after the first frost and hulled out by my cousins with yellowed hands; the black walnut cookies, sweeter than any taste; the fudge with butternuts crowding it. In the mornings we would be given a hammer, a flatiron, and a bowl of nuts to crack and pick out for the homemade ice cream.

All families had their special Christmas food. Ours was called Dutch bread, mad from dough halfway between bread and cake, stuffed with citron and every sort of nut from the farm - hazel, black walnut, hickory, butternut. a little round one was always baked for me in a baking-soda can, and my last act on Christmas Eve was to put it by the tree so that Santa Claus would find it and have a snack - after all, he'd come a long, cold way to our house. And every Christmas morning, he would have eaten it. My aunt made the same Dutch bread and we smeared over it the same butter she had been churning from their own Jersey milk that same morning.

To eat in the same room where food is cooked - that is the way to thank the Lord for His abundance. The long table, with its different levels where additions had been made for the small fry, ran the length of the kitchen. The air was heavy with odors, not only of food on plates but of the act of cooking itself along with the metallic smell of heated iron from the
hard-working Smoke Eater, and the whole stove offered us its yet uneaten prospects of more goose and untouched pies. To see the giblet gravy made and poured into a gravy boat is the surest way to overeat its swimming richness.

The warning for Christmas dinner was always an order to go to the milk house for cream, where we skimmed from the cooling pans of fresh milk the cream which had the same golden color as the flanks of the Jersey cows which had given it. The last deed before eating was grinding the coffee beans in the little mill, adding that exotic odor to the more native ones of goose and spiced pumpkin pie. Then all would sit at the table and my uncle would ask the grace, sometimes in German, but later for the benefit of us ignorant children, in English:

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
Share this food that you have blessed.

My aunt kept a turmoil of food circulating, and to refuse any of it was somehow to violate the elevated nature of the day. To consume the length of breadth of that meal was to suffer! But we all faced the ordeal with courage. Uncle Ben would let out his belt - a fancy Western belt with steer heads and silver buckle - with a snap and a sigh. The women managed better by always getting up from the table and trotting to the kitchen sink or the Smoke Eater or outdoors for some item left in the cold. The men sat there, grimly enduring the glory of their appetites.

After dinner, late in the afternoon, the women would make despairing gestures toward the dirty dishes and scoop up hot water from the reservoir at the side of the range. The men would go to the barn and look after the livestock. My older cousin would take his new .22 rifle and stalk out across the pasture with a remark, "I saw that fox just now, looking for his Christmas goose." Or sleds would be dragged out and we would slide in a long snake, feet hooked into the sled behind, down the hill and across the westward sloping fields into the sunset. Bones would be thrown to dogs, suet tied in the oak trees for the juncos and winter-defying chickadees, a saucer of skimmed milk set out for the cats, daintily and disgustedly picking their padded feet through the snow, and crumbs scattered on a bird feeder where already the crimson cardinals would be dropping out of the sky like blood. Then back to the house for a final warming-up before leaving.

There was usually a song around the tree before we were all bundled up, many thanks all around for gifts, the basket as loaded as when it came, more so, for leftover food had been piled in it. My father and uncle would have brought up the team from the barn and hooked them into the double shafts of the bobsled, and we would all go out into the freezing air of early evening.

And now those bells again as the horses, impatient from their long standing in the barn, stamped and shook their harness, my father holding them back with a soft clucking in his throat and a hard pull on the reins. The smell of wood smoke flavoring the air in our noses, the cousins shivering with cold, "Good-bye, good-bye" called out by everyone, and the bobsled would move off, creaking over the frost-brittle snow. All of us, my mother included, would dig down in the straw and pull the buffalo robes up to our chins. As the horses settled into a steady trot, the bells gently chiming to their rhythmical beat, we would fall half asleep, the hiss of the runners comforting. As we looked up at the night sky through half-closed eyelids, the constant bounce and swerve of the runners would seem to shake the little stars as if they would fall into our laps. But that one great star in the East never wavered. Nothing could shake it from the sky as we drifted home on Christmas.

*Sigh* I love that story! See how I put the words, "It was a handmade Christmas"? That is what we are going to concentrate on over these next six weeks. Well, that, and spending time around the fire together, thinking of Christ's birth. What is my Christmas wish you ask? Well, spending time around the fire with you all, chatting with a sweet cup of chocolate (with marshmallows to be sure;). Would that not be a wonderful Christmas present? Have all my dear friends who I have met through the blogging world, spend Christmas with each other? *Sigh*


I thought, why do we not start this blog party with "easier," supplies because some people do not know how to sew, or crochet, or knit (which I hope to teach you by the end of this blog party;). The simplest materials I thought of we could start with is... PAPER!!! Enjoy these great paper crafts!

This is a cute little art journal for an artist friend, or just for yourself!

LOVE this tutorial!!! What a great Christmas gift this would be (or birthday gift!)

Origami! I thought making a whole bunch of these in nice origami paper and hanging them with clear fish string on the ceiling in your room, would be so whimsical! Also, a few on the tree might be a neat, new touch as well! This little crane will probably take a few tries (my first attempt ended up with a wad of paper!:)

(Because, this post is hooked up to the Linky, I thought to avoid confusion I would have the giveaway posted above. Giveaway in the later post above)

Now, it's your turn to link up your posts! The linky will be running all week, so do not feel pressured to join immediately!!
This week's idea is PAPER!!! I look forward to reading your posts!

Oh, and my good Sister in Christ Bess from Bess's Bag is also hosting an event which I encourage you to check out HERE!
Christmas Blessings!

Please comment on this post letting me know if you linked up, because I would love to see your tutorials!!!


  1. I love the wonderful card box tutorial!!! I went to that gal's site and she has tons of other amazing tutorials!

    Thanks a ton,

  2. I love the journal and card box tutorials! I don't see a linky box though...

  3. Does anyone else not see a linky?? Or is it just me?

  4. Come Lord Jesus is our prayer at every supper. It was very nice to see it in the story! :)

  5. Let me know what you think of the tutorial I found! I thought it was SO cute!!!

  6. Do I have to post the tutorials I find on my blog? Or can I just do what I did, and that is just give you the link to the tutorial?

    Let me know!

  7. Oh, I see how it works! I do my OWN tutorials, not the ones you post! Alright then! I have an idea, but the picture will be old, because I'll have to copy it from an older post, our internet won't let me upload pictures anymore! :(

    But I will link up! :D

  8. I tried, but it wouldn't work for me! Here is my link:

    Sorry for all this trouble!