Posted by Jo Robertson Nov 29 2014, 11:58 pm in Christmas, Holidays, Jo Robertson, recipes
I always think of my mother, Betty Lewis, at this time of the year because she was such a traditional, old-fashioned cook, and I like using the recipes she handed down to me over the years.
One Christmas gift I cherish came from my sister-in-law who copied and framed one of my mom’s recipes in her own handwriting. It’s a lovely idea and a special gift.
The holiday season is creeping up on us all too fast. I’m not one of those who shops a little all year long, so at the last minute I have tons of crafts and gifts, decorations and food preparation.
One of the great treasures of this time of the year is sharing favorite recipes. In remembrance of my mother and as a nod to my family, I’d like to share a few recipes from my files.
My husband’s mother was a meat-and-potatoes woman who overcooked everything, but no one could beat her in the homemade candy-making department. Every Christmas she mailed us a package of her assorted candies: fudge, divinity, caramels with nuts, and her famous penuche, Dr. Big’s favorite:
Butter an8x 8×2 inch pan. Coarsely chop and set aside 3/4 cup pecans. Mix together in a heavy 2 quart saucepan 3 cups firmly packed brown sugar, 1 cup plus 2 TB milk, 1/2 t. salt.
Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat and bring mixture to boiling, stirring frequently. Put candy thermometer in place. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches 234 degrees F. (soft ball stage — remove from heat while testing). During cooking, wash crystals from sides of pan. Remove from heat. Set aside until just cool enough to hold pan on hand. Do not jar pan or stir.
When cool, add 3 TB butter, 1 1/2 t. vanilla. Beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss. With a few strokes stir in the chopped nuts. Quickly turn into the buttered pan without scraping bottom and sides of saucepan and spread evenly. Set aside to cool.
Note: I love how Mabel gives these little added tips which are helpful for new candy-makers! Also, I like a richer candy, so I use half and half or evaporated milk instead of regular milk. I don’t think 1 and 2 percent milk was available back in the day.
BETTY’S SOUR CREAM CASSEROLE
- 1 pkg frozen hash browns, thawed
- 1 1/2 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 8-oz. carton sour cream
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 c. corn flakes
Mix all ingredients together, except 1/2 stick butter and corn flakes. Pour into 9 by 13 pan. Melt 1/2 stick butter with corn flakes and sprinkle on potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Note: This is a great side-dish and super easy to make ahead.
What are your favorite, go-to recipes for the holiday season? Any ideas of what to make with the left-over turkey or ham? I need some additions to my recipe file, so please share!
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 10 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Christmas, ebooks, Her Christmas Earl, historical romance, Holidays, Marriage of Convenience, novellas, Regency romance, Scandal
It’s a launch party in the lair!
But first, an apology!
I know it’s far too early to be talking Christmas – even when it’s only Christmas books. Please don’t take this post as a signal to run off and give your list to Santa! It’s still a bit over six weeks until the fat, jolly bloke with the facial hair squeezes down your chimney!
So having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my latest release, HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA!
While it mightn’t be the time yet to wrap the gifts for under the tree, it’s definitely the time of year when it’s nice to have something romantic and short to read while the world goes crazy around us. I think novellas are really great when there’s Holidays everywhere and all the other end of the year madness. You get your romance fix and still have time and attention to deal with any crises that pop up!
Writing a novella at this time of year is almost a public service!
So given how chaotic things get in the lair in the lead up to the festive season, I thought we’d have a practice run so the cabana boys have everything down to a T when the real time comes.
But before I introduce your Yuletide entertainment, let me introduce HER CHRISTMAS EARL. Firstly, here’s the blurb:
No good deed goes unpunished…
To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways?
Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Does fate offer him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion to last a lifetime?You can read an excerpt on my website here: http://annacampbell.info/xmasearl.html
And all of that Christmassy Earlish goodness for the measly price of 99 cents!
Goodness, I think you should go and buy 10! Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?
If you click on that pretty red cover at the top of this piece, it will take you right to Amazon (we like to make things easy for you!).
You can also buy HER CHRISTMAS EARL from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/486725
The story starts on Christmas Eve during a country house party in Wiltshire – a good excuse for me to share a couple of favorite photos from beautiful Haddon Hall which is in Derbyshire but was very much on my mind when I wrote this.
So I asked the cabana boys to turn the lair into a stately home in Regency England at Christmas. But I fear they didn’t get quite the right idea!
Plastic Christmas trees in lovely Hartley Manor in 1823? Sacre bleu as the French chef there is fond of saying!
And what about the plastic reindeers that light up? It’s enough to send Wellington back to Waterloo in disgust! And Napoleon off for a nap!
So if you were arranging a lovely Christmas party in snowy Wiltshire for an Earl and his new bride, what would you do to make the house atmospheric and lovely? Mince pies? Carol singers? Roaring log fires? Lots of mistletoe for the earl and his bride to kiss under – not that they need much encouragement!
I have three downloads of HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA up for grabs today to people who comment so get talking Christmas decorations! Good luck!
Posted by Caren Crane Nov 2 2014, 12:22 am in anticipating holidays, Caren Crane, Christmas, craft store, Halloween, Holidays, Thanksgiving
…and not in a good way. A friend of mine was hosting a Halloween party this year. Awesome! Her party, however, fell the day after Halloween, on November 1. This was actually perfect, since it was a Saturday night and we “fell back” an hour last night/this morning as we left off Daylight Savings Time. A fun party plus an extra hour of sleep? Woo hoo!
This was a costume party, mind you. A costume optional party, but my husband and I thought it would be fun to go in costume for once. We are not “costume people.” Still, we were making an effort. Yesterday (the day of the party), I went to a craft store to look for a couple of things I needed to complete my costume (I was a pot brownie, he was Tim the Enchanter). While there, I noticed there was a lot of Anticipating the Holidays going on. Not only was all the Halloween stuff at least 75% off, but the Thanksgiving stuff was at least 50% off. Thanksgiving isn’t for another 25 days, people! For the mathy among us, that is 3 weeks and 4 days away. Practically a month! Yet they are so desperate to commit fully and completely to Christmas that Thanksgiving has already been pushed into one side of a single aisle and priced to move.
I don’t care to anticipate the holidays quite that much. Heck, I have Veteran’s Day to celebrate and a 7-night cruise to enjoy before we even get to Thanksgiving! After that is my mother’s birthday, a sister’s birthday, a brother-in-law’s birthday, my sister-in-law’s birthday and my father’s birthday (he would have been 78 this year) before we get to Christmas. I don’t need to jump straight from Halloween to Christmas, craft store people. Thanks anyway!
How about you? Do you like to jump ahead and get an extra-early start on the holidays or are you content to let one pass before anticipating the next? (Confession, I have bought a couple of Christmas presents already.) I would love to know who is carefully crafting for Christmas and who still has turkey on her mind! 🙂
Posted by Kate Carlisle Dec 25 2013, 12:05 am in 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, Bandit Booty, Bandita Booty, Christmas, Holidays, Kate Carlisle
The Romance Bandits want to wish all of you who celebrate Christmas the merriest of days! (And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas… be merry today.) Hope you’re spending the day with people you love. We’ll be popping in and out throughout the day to say hello. Be sure to post a comment below so you’ll have a chance to win today’s Grand Prize in the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas celebration!
The grand prize package includes…
- From Christina Brooke, a signed trade paperback of the Australian edition of London’s Last True Scoundrel
- From Suzanne Ferrell, Kidnapped plus Godiva Chocolates
- From Anna Campbell, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
- From Trish Milburn, Out of the Night
- From Donna MacMeans, The Casanova Code
- From Jeanne Adams, a Rooster Mug and Saucer, plus a download of her brand new novella
- From Jo Robertson, her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift
- From Christie Kelley, Enticing the Earl
- From Caren Crane, Kick Start
- From Tawny Weber, Nice & Naughty, Naughty Christmas Nights
- From Susan Sey, Taste For Trouble (Kindle or paperback) and Talent For Trouble (upon January release, also Kindle or paperback)
- From Joan Kayse, Kindle download of The Patrician
- From Nancy Northcott, Renegade, Guardian, or Sentinel as download
- From Kate Carlisle, A Cookbook Conspiracy and some cool Bibliophile swag
- From Anna Sugden, A Perfect Distraction plus Cadbury’s chocolate
- From visiting author Katie McGarry, her latest YA Crash Into You
- From visiting author Natalie Richards, her latest YA Six Months Later
You know that I write a mystery series about a bookbinder, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a fan of beautiful wrapping paper. (Understatement!) Sometimes when I get a gift, the paper is so lovely that I open it carefully, delicately, because hurting the paper would hurt my feelings.
A Brief History of Wrapping Paper
Gifts have been wrapped in paper for nineteen centuries in China. Gift paper was popular in Victorian England, but it was much thicker and more cumbersome than what we use today, and it was only affordable for the upper classes.
Modern gift wrap came into being by a quirk of fate. The year was 1917. Americans at that time mostly wrapped Christmas gifts in red, green, and white tissue paper, but a card store in Kansas City ran out of tissue paper. The quick-thinking owners remembered that they had sheets of French envelope-lining paper in back. They priced the decorative sheets at 10 cents apiece (about $2.35 in today’s money) and watched them fly off the shelves… and an industry was born.
That company is still in business today. Hallmark. And all because of poor inventory control.
Have you opened presents today? What made you smile?
Posted by Anna Sugden Dec 22 2013, 1:58 am in 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, Anna Sugden, Christmas, merry christmas, quick five, recipe
Only a couple of sleeps left! Is everyone getting excited? Are you ready for the big day? Presents wrapped, house decorated, food ready?
Here at Chez Sugden, we’re all set – just got to pick up the turkey and dig up the veggies from our allotment, then we’re good to go!
Now, we couldn’t have Christmas fun without a special Quick Five, so here is your Merry Christmas Quick Five!
1. Go to this site and find out what your Santa elf name is.
2. Favourite Christmas carol and song
3. Favourite Christmas movie
4. Favourite Christmas ornament
5. What you’d like to find under your Christmas tree or in your Christmas stocking
Christmas Stuffed Mushrooms (makes 1 doz)
1 dozen chestnut or portobello mushrooms (ordinary mushrooms will do – just make sure they all have stalks)
1 heaped tbsp butter
4 heaped tbsp Philadelphia Light cream cheese (works with regular too)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
If you like garlic, you can also add 1 tsp of chopped garlic
Note: If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use Philly with the herbs already in it!
1. Carefully remove mushroom stalks from caps and set caps aside on a baking tray
2. Finely chop mushroom stalks.
3. In a small saucepan, melt butter and gently cook, mushroom stalks, chives and parsley (plus garlic) until softened.
4. Add cream cheese and let it melt and mix, until creamy
5. Using a teaspoon, scoop the mix into the waiting mushroom caps.
6. Cook in oven for 15 mins.
These are delicious hot or cold!
One lucky commenter today will win an A Perfect Distraction mug and some Cadbury’s chocolate.
COME BACK TOMORROW FOR MORE HOLIDAY FUN WITH THE 12 DAYS OF BANDITA CHRISTMAS! LOOK FOR MORE INFO ON OUR BIG CHRISTMAS DAY PRIZE!
Posted by Susan Sey Dec 19 2013, 12:51 am in 12 days of Christmas, Christmas, Pasta, recipes, Susan Sey
Ah, Christmas. It’s a season heavy with tradition–the songs, the decorations, the food.
Oh, yeah, the food.
Now I’m a pretty traditional girl–it’s not Christmas for me without a big ol’ hunk of my mom’s Dutch apple pie. It’s not the day after Christmas without a hunk of that same pie posing as breakfast, either.
For my husband, it’s not Christmas without a giant pan of mac-and-cheese on the table. (My mind boggles at the idea of mac-and-cheese for Christmas dinner, but whatever. You marry a guy, you marry his traditions.)
But on the very first high holiday we spent together as a couple, just the two of us, we went outside the box. We made pasta.
Yeah, pasta. By hand.
Don’t ask me what we were thinking. We were giddy with love & having an adventure. We had no idea we were even getting married someday, let alone hatching a life-long tradition. We just happened to both be family free for the holiday & decided to do something crazy.
Like make pasta.
So, fast forward about fifteen years. Throw a kitchen aid mixer with the pasta attachments into the mix. Throw in a couple of kids & a few in-laws. Cover the whole thing in flour, & you’ve pretty much got the pasta adventure we staged last Christmas chez Sey. The pictures really do say it all, but here’s the basic recipe & procedure:
Basic Egg Pasta:
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
3 1⁄2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Place eggs, water, flour, and salt in mixer bowl.
Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.
Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
Divide dough into 4 pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet Roller attachment.
Okay, at this point, you’ll have four balls of dough. When they say “process with the pasta sheet roller,” they mean to run it through the attachment on your mixer that essentially squeezes each ball between a couple of rollers that look like a mini-laundry mangle. (Anybody old enough–or read enough historical fiction–to know what a mangle is? I know I do!)
This will get to you the point you see in the first picture where I’m dealing with an incredibly long, flat sheet of pasta. At this point, I flour a bunch of parchment paper & cut the sheet of dough into noodle-sized lengths–maybe a foot? I let them sit between layers of floured parchment while I switch out my pasta roller for my pasta cutter. I like the fettuccine one. I feel like this width cooks nicely.
So then you run the sheets through the cutter (as seen in picture #2) & you end up with…fettuccine! It truly is like magic. (Picture #3 shows some of the sheets waiting to be run through the fettuccine cutter, & some that have already been through.)
Drop each little coil of fresh pasta into boiling water, cook for about 6-7 minutes, & voila! You have actual, honest-to-goodness, edible pasta.
It might look like a flour bomb went off in your kitchen, but you can deal with that after dinner.
Just drain that gorgeous pasta, top with your favorite sauce–we went with pesto, though at least one of my girls went with just straight up olive oil & salt–and eat that deliciousness right up.
And if you lick your plate, I’m not going to judge you.
So how about you? Have you ever done anything strange for the holidays, & had it turn into a tradition on you? Share!
And to reward you for swinging by the Bandit’s 12 Day of Christmas, we’ll be gifting one lucky commenter with a copy of Susan’s last release TASTE FOR TROUBLE, kindle or paperback, winner’s choice! (And you’ll want to read it soon as the follow up TALENT FOR TROUBLE is coming out in January!) You’ll also receive a fabulous Rooster ornament for whatever you choose to decorate this time of year!
Posted by Donna MacMeans Dec 18 2013, 12:32 am in Alligators, Bulb candies, Christmas
Everyone has a gift.
Not the type that comes wrapped in shiny paper with ribbons and bows (though plenty of those will be exchanged this time next week). I mean the kind of god-granted gifts that some people come by naturally. My husband, for example, has the gift to find a parking spot near the door of wherever we go. This gift is particularly appreciated during the Christmas shopping insanity and in times of rotten weather. It’s like he has a parking angel sitting on his shoulder.
I just discovered I have a newfound gift, or maybe it’s a specialized shoulder angel.
My husband and I went on a Northern Florida vacation the first week of December. Our “unit” had a little deck and was located on a lake. The first time we went out on the deck, my husband pointed out two little eyes not far from the shore. I called out to the little guy and sure enough an alligator swam over to our unit, climbed out of the water and walked halfway up the distance to our deck.
Yes. I am a gator whisperer. 😆
Everyday I would call “Hey Baby!” and the little guy would appear and climb up the bank. One day, his older and bigger friend came up the bank as well. (The older one is hanging back a little. Actually, he originally climbed up next to the younger gator, so the younger gator came closer.)
My husband would call. No response. The gators would only respond to me. Who knew?
Now, to be honest, I suspect a woman who stayed in the unit before me foolishly fed the alligators – something I did not do. But I was tempted. The one little guy was just so loyal. He never opened his mouth. I suspect my desire to toss him some food would be lessened by the sight of his sharp teeth. But the way he lifted himself up, walked up the bank, then settled down made him seem friendly and almost smiling.
So in the tradition of the season, I’ve added a new ornament to the tree. I love meaningful ornaments – ornaments that come with stories attached. Check it out.
I also picked up a tin of chocolates in the shape of little alligators to share with my christmas guests. I think they’ll be particular attractive nestled amongst the christmas cookies :-). Actually, I just wanted the tin. I have this unexplainable love of boxes and tins and wanted this one…just because. But we’ll enjoy the chocolates.
Can you see the little alligator refrigerator magnet sitting on top of the tin? I’m sending that to someone leaving a comment today. I wish he had a little Santa Claus hat for the season but the same commenter will receive the rooster ornament for our twelve days of Christmas celebration. Talk about meaningful! 🙂 .
So do you have a talent, or gift, that you’d like to share? How about a special ornament with a story to tell? Would you have fed the gator? Let’s chat.
Oh – and a recipe!
If there’s a prize for the easiest, most no-mess, and fun Christmas candy recipe – this one would win it. The recipe came from a Facebook post.
Christmas lightbulb treats
There’s just two ingredients – a bag of Mike & Ike candy and a bag of almond M&Ms (the ones with the almonds inside)
Step one: Slice the Mike & Ike candies in two. These will become the base of the light bulb. A sharp knife will do fine, but if your knives are on the dull side – heat them up a bit. The heat will make it easier to slice through the sugary candy.
Step two: Select an almond M&M and hold it by the pointed end. The hardest thing about this recipe is to decide which is the pointed end 😛 .
Step three: Push the candy base onto the fat end of the M&M. I heated the cut end of the Mike & Ike using the side of a candle flame so I’d get a solid attachment, but that’s not really necessary. Just push it onto the M&M with some force.
Voila – you’re done! For a cool presentation, swirl a line of gel frosting around a plate and position the bulbs so it looks like they’re attached.
Now add some chocolate alligators – hehehe.
Have a fabulous Christmas everyone!!!
Posted by Joan Kayse Dec 13 2013, 12:30 am in Christmas, Christmas Candy, Christmas Nostalgia Joan Kayse, Christmas Stockings
Ho, Ho, Ho!!!
Welcome to the first of the 12 Days of Bandit Christmas!
Soooo many potential Christmas topics that could be covered: Trees, ornaments, trivia, carols, reindeer games (hmmmm) but I picked one near and dear to my cold little tootsies. The Christmas stocking!
The tradition of this is well known, associated with wooden shoes initially in the “Old Country” and St. Nick who finally got tired of trying to cram that pony into such a small receptacle and segued to wrapped packages. But habits die hard and so we continue to hand our stockings with care.
Now goodies stuffed into these stockings are often regional and filled with nostalgia. Oranges and hard candy anyone? It might even be filled with Dr. Scholl’s Odor Eaters depending on whose stocking it is :0
But I imagine nowadays with gift cards, iPods and all manner of WOW items it’s a lot easier. Me? Well…I was raised in a simpler time. Here are my top five stocking stuffers:
1. Chocolate Marshmallow Santa.
2. Ribbon Candy (Talk about nostalgia…THIS is the symbol of my 1960’s childhood. Sigh)
3. Puzzle books
4. Doll clothes
5. Chocolate Snowman (I sense a theme here)
The Santa and Snowman are self-explanatory. I mean it’s CHOCOLATE, for gosh sakes! Now the hard candy? Those beautiful, colorful, fruity pieces of shiny sugar stacked in ribbon shape, with pretty little designs in the middle? Sigh. THAT’S Christmas!
Puzzle books were simple, easily and quickly done. The doll clothes though…those were BARBIE clothes! The pinnacle of fashion! My Mom made me lots of wonderful Barbie dresses. (Another nostalgia jolt…the pattern books at Woolworths) but to get a elegant gown with glitter? Santa, you rocked my stocking.
What about you? What are some of the stocking stuffers you’ve received? Anything unusual (Remember PG blog here 😉 What do you like to give? Do you and your family still hang them with care? Is your stocking store bought or homemade? C’mon…Santa wants to know.
One lucky commenter will receive a Kindle download of THE PATRICIAN’S FORTUNE in their stocking 😀
COME BACK TOMORROW FOR MORE HOLIDAY FUN WITH THE 12 DAYS OF BANDITA CHRISTMAS!! LOOK FOR MORE INFO ON OUR BIG CHRISTMAS DAY PRIZE!!
Posted by Cassondra Murray Dec 12 2013, 1:42 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Christmas, Christmas traditions, Decorations, Doll makers, Santa
When I was a little girl, Santa was a fat guy in a screaming red and white suit, with a white beard and a list.
That’s how he always looked.
Sometimes his face looked mean—a little on the evil side depending on the depiction– but most of the “Santa” images were of a jolly, happy, kind-looking Santa, much like this one on the left.
Doesn’t he look like a nice guy, laying his finger aside of his nose, about to nod his head and ascend through the narrow chimney?
Back then, Santa’s face was pretty much the only thing that varied. Some of them looked absolutely evil. This guy on the right isn’t too bad, but doesn’t he look like he has some mischief afoot?
As a child, even into my teens, I didn’t realize that the “fat guy in a bright red suit” imagery was fairly new, or that it had evolved over a long, long time, and that Santa did not always look exactly like this.
But I never did much like that suit.
I suppose, even as a little girl, the beginnings of the Martha Stewart Mini-Me that I would eventually become…well…they were already in place. I swear I don’t know where I got these tendencies.
I loved Santa back then. But even as a little girl, when I looked at Christmas decorations in the stores, I just wasn’t into that red suit.
Yes, I was an odd child. I won’t deny it.
As I grew older, I’d see those Santa dolls –you know the ones that are two or three feet tall, with fabric outfits–meant to be put out as decorations either inside or outside, but I never wanted one for my house. They just didn’t appeal.
Then it happened.
A few years after I was married, I was walking by the window of an upscale department store when I saw a Santa that made me stop and stare.
He was not in a bright red suit. He was in a robe. Not screaming red. It was deep dark burgundy. The fur trim was off white and looked old.
Now I know he’d be called an “Old World Santa,” but those weren’t around back then–or at least I hadn’t seen one. This one on the right is not him, but he has the same look. This is an Old World Santa from Linens ‘n Things.
After that, I started noticing more and more versions of Santa that were not the clownish guy I grew up with, but were based more on Father Christmas—the old world version of Santa.
Not long after that, I was in another store and I saw “Woodland Santa” with leaves and pine cones in a wreath around his head, and a long robe of what looked like fur-trimmed burlap. He had on snowshoes and there was a deer standing at his side. In one hand was a staff made of a tree branch, and in the other, a lantern. He had a rough knapsack over his shoulder. His cheeks were still rosy and his beard long and white.
It was just my style. I love primitive antiques, log cabins, barns and woods. I had found my Santa.
I was in school at the time, and we were flat broke, so I couldn’t afford him. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one like him since, but I’d had my “Santa Awakening.” This one on the left is similar. It’s another version of “Woodland Santa”
Back then, all of these were “designer” Santas and were WAY too spendy for my budget, but I could still stare at them and imagine how they’d look in my future house, standing on my future hearth beside the future fireplace.
Flash forward a few years. Really cool Santas have come down in price, and now they’re available everywhere, as common as Bright-red-suit Santa.
Here’s another version of “Woodland Santa” on the right. This one is available at Costco. Doesn’t he look rugged and ready for some serious outdoor trekking? Even if his sleigh breaks down, ala the movie “Elf,” this Santa could still get where he needed to go.
Now, thanks to the internet and shops like Etsy, there are doll makers who specialize in a zillion different versions of Santa Claus, like this Father Christmas in a fur cloak on the left. You can see the rest of him if you click on the link. He’s amazing.
Looking around the web, I found one particular doll maker whose work I absolutely love, and she was kind enough to give me permission to share her Santas with you here on the blog.
Her name is Bona Lowery, and her Santas are stunning, one-of-a kind pieces of art, but many of them cost far less than you’d think for such beautiful work.
If you click on the links, you can see the detail in these Santas in the bigger pictures.
This is her Cabin Santa on the left. Cabin Santa is holding a little log cabin, and I love his fur-trimmed robe.
On her site, Santa Creations by Bona, she has a snippet about the history of Santa Claus.
Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus.
Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly, well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe.
Okay so Santa was fat back then, and Santa is still fat. Even most old-world Santas and Father Christmas figures have a belly. Every one of us feels the pressures of current fashion, but not Santa. Santa is, thus far, immune.
I understand from my friends who write historical romance that centuries ago, having a little fat on you was a sign that you were well-off. You could afford to eat all you wanted, regularly, and you could eat yummy stuff that most people couldn’t get. The common folk were lucky to eat at all, and worked off what they did eat. So, not only was Santa doing okay for himself, he was also generous, especially toward kids.
Here are more Santas by Ms. Lowery. That’s Fishing Santa on the right, complete with his tackle.
On the left is Silver Wreath Santa–less rustic, and more in keeping with the sparkle of the season.
Nowadays there are Santas with sheep, Santas with donkeys, and Santas with kittens.
I’ve seen Santas in sleighs and Santas wearing snowshoes pulling their own sleds, Santas with huskies instead of reindeer pulling the sleigh, and one Santa I saw was riding a polar bear.
None of them were wearing the bright red suit. I’ve even seen a “Green Man Santa”–the pagan version of Santa– with long gray beard, still carrying the traditional gifts, but wearing a wreath of leaves and sporting antlers on his head.
Bandita Kate is like me–she’s a wine lover, and she’ll love this next Santa. It’s a wine rack, and Santa is enjoying a glass of his favorite.
The photo on the right is of the Karen Didion Originals Crakewood Santa Claus 5-bottle Tabletop Wine Rack.
I had not heard of Karen Didion, but she was all over the internet when I went looking for Santas, and I absolutely loved everything I saw of hers. I think she’s brilliant. I found her Santas at Wayfair.com.
If you click on the link and look at the photos, you see the Santa wine rack from all directions. Plus, the wire barrel holds wine corks. Did I already say this Santa designer is brilliant?
Yes, she is.
Here’s another of her Santas on the left. Victorian Santa Claus.
Awesome Santas are not just from fancy designers. They’re everywhere. The Father Christmas Dolls on the right were from QVC.
The one below, on the left, is from Lowe’s. I *think* those are snowshoes strapped on his back, though I’m not certain.
Santa is stylin’.
He’s no longer just a guy in a red suit.
I had a bit of an epiphany while I was writing this post and searching for awesome Santas. If I fall in love with a Santa decoration, it’s probably because it looks nothing like the traditional guy in a red suit, and everything like a Wizard.
It seems the more Wizard-like the Santa is, the more I love it.
I never thought of Santa as a Wizard before, but he does have the pointy, floppy hat. And how else does he get up and down the chimney–and fly all over the world in one night?
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
What sort of Santa appeals to you?
Did you grow up with the “Bright red-and-white suit” Santa?
If you celebrate another holiday, what are your decorations like? Do you like bright and sparkly? Or do you prefer colors and designs that are more subdued for a holiday?
If you decorate for Christmas, do you choose Screaming-red-suit Santa?
Or do you like the old-world Santas better?
Do you have any Santa figurines or dolls like the ones in the photos?
What says “Santa” to you?
It’s ALMOST HERE! Tomorrow is Day 1 of our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas! Prizes every day, plus extra goodies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Be sure to stop by the blog each day between now and Christmas and leave a comment to be in the drawings.
Posted by Cassondra Murray Dec 5 2013, 1:04 am in 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, Artificial trees, Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Christmas, Christmas tree, Traditions
I need help here.
I’m going to say it. Shameful as it may be, yes, I’ll say it, right here in front of God and everybody else.
I have a fake Christmas tree.
My house is 164 years old. It’s partially restored but a long way from finished. I’ll never forget the moment when I walked into the front foyer for the first time. I looked up at the ten-foot ceiling, then I looked at the glass sidelights and transom that wrap around the glass-paneled front door, all original 1800s wavy glass panes, loose enough to rattle in the muntins, uninsulated, and leaky as hell, and I said, “Think of the Christmas tree I could put in here!”
That’s half the reason I bought this ongoing-project-of-a house.
I love Christmas trees.
I love all of them, from the uber-chic designer trees to the tacky trees with ugly garland piled on a foot thick.
And falling somewhere on the upper middle of the Christmas tree scale, is mine. I have a really great tree.
Of course I can say that, because it’s always the same. It’s a fake tree.
And okay, yeah. I know. That’s not nearly as good as a real tree. I know this because everybody around me has real trees and when I’m talking with somebody and I say I have an artificial tree, there’s a very brief, subtle pause, with just a slight lifting of both eyebrows. You might not even notice it if you’re not paying attention.
Then they smile and nod, trying to hide the fact that they’ve just judged me.
“Oh,” they’re thinking. “I thought she had better taste! Bet she bought it at K-Mart.”
I could have bought it at K-Mart. Just two days ago I walked through their Christmas department and drooled over their awesome selection of really awesome artificial trees.
But I didn’t buy it there. I bought it at an upscale Christmas shoppe.
See? There’s an extra p and an e on the end of “shop” which proves it’s upscale.
I don’t get a real tree for two reasons.
First, I have an unusual attachment to trees. I feel a kinship with them. I have such a deep love for trees that it’s almost painful for me to see one cut. It’s a sad weakness. I can’t enjoy having a cut tree in my house without wondering at what beautiful thing it might have become if I hadn’t cut it. I just can’t do it.
Second, I like to put my tree up at the winter solstice, December 20th or 21st, and leave it up until February 2nd, Groundhog Day. Some of y’all remember a blog I did last January called Waiting For The Light To Come. I confessed that I get clinical depression in the winter, and February 2nd is the point at which I can feel the season turning, spring coming, and hope renewed. So that’s when I’m ready to take down my tree and unplug its cheerful lights.
No real tree will last that long.
When I was a little girl, Daddy would take me out to the woods and we’d cut down a little cedar tree. It was usually about six feet tall, and it smelled heavenly.
Then a few years later we got a fake tree, and it was full and fluffy and perfect. Every needle was stick-straight and the same shade of fake green. I hated it. From about a mile away you could look at it and say, “that’s a plastic tree.” When I was little, fake trees were awful.
Things have changed.
Artificial trees come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and they’re beautiful.
Now my tree is nine feet tall, slender, and looks like a real evergreen, even up close.
I wrap several strands of white lights in piles around the center “trunk” then wind many more lights through the branches. I learned this technique from a book with a title I can’t remember, but it was probably something like “Martha Stewart rocks Christmas” or some such. When I plug it in, with all those lights in the center, it glows like something from another realm.
But no matter how excellent my tree is, it’s still a plastic tree.
If y’all read the newsletter, you know that Marco, Paulo and some of the other guys on staff had some issues recently when they went out hunting for trees to decorate the various rooms here in the lair.
No fake trees here.
So I did a survey in the lair about what kind of trees the Bandits get for their own homes.
Bandita Suz said, “We’ve always gotten a real tree since we got married. The Jazzman (aka, my hubby) loved them when he was small. Hated helping his mom put up the fake one.”
Bandita Nancy said, “We have a real tree. We like the smell of it and the texture.”
Yeah. No love for the plastic tree.
Bandita Jo said, “We generally like a live tree. There’s something very satisfying and comforting about the smell of pine in the house.”
Yes. Yes, there is. *Heavy sigh*
Bandita Tawny said, “I love real trees, but both of my girls have really bad allergies. After a few sniffly, watery holidays I gave in and got an artificial tree. Ours is about 8 foot, green and lit with white lights.”
Finally, another artificial tree!
Small consolation though. Tawny has a plastic tree, but she doesn’t like it. “I miss having a live tree,” she said. “The scent and feel of it is always wonderful. But I do bring in a few boughs to decorate with, and we have a live wreath on the door. Those don’t seem to send my kids into misery.”
Okay she’s only doing this for the sake of her children’s health. Hmmm..
I asked Bandita Trish what she had, and she said, “Fake. I actually have two, the smallish one I’ve had since college and a big one that I got when we bought our house because the front living room has a vaulted ceiling. I don’t like cleaning up after live ones, and knowing my allergies they would make me sneeze anyway.”
Hmmm…once again, allergies are the determining factor.
I’m still feeling like the odd woman out.
Joanie said, “Replica tree…yeah…that’s what I’ll call it…replica. Don’t recall a real tree growing up as my brother suffered from allergies.”
Once again, it would be a real tree if not for the children’s health—or for the sake of the cats…“The artificial ones HAVE improved over the years, especially in assembly,” Joan said. “I have a pre-lit one now about 6 feet tall that comes in 3 pieces. And I can tie it to the wall so certain kitty elves don’t topple it.”
Yes, the kitties do love to climb the Christmas tree. Real or fake.
Hey, at least Joanie tried to be diplomatic about it.
Bandita Caren said, “Our tree is fake. It’s a 6-foot Douglas Fir and is, naturally, pine green…We stick with fake because pine is the thing I am most allergic to in the world!”
Okay I’m getting a complex here.
Even my evil twin, Duchesse Jeanne, stands against me in this question.. “We always get a fresh tree, usually on my birthday,” she said. “We’ve bought the kind you can plant before, but I’m running out of places in the yard to put them, so fresh cut it is.”
Bandita Christina said, “We do a fake tree. Not many people have real ones where I live. It’s getting on in years now, probably needs replacing, It’s plastic, with dark green needles and it’s decorated with all the love and tackiness we can manage.”
Yes, yes, YES! Finally! Apparently I would fit in better if I moved to Australia. Ahem.
Bandita Anna Sugden, who lives in England now, said, “These days, a real tree – we always get a special “non-drop” tree (A Nordmann or a Norwegian Spruce, she says, which I’m assuming will not drop its needles) so that it’s safe for the cats…Have always preferred a real tree, but when we lived in NJ we couldn’t get non-drop trees, so bought a fab fake tree (which we still have in the loft), which looked very realistic!”
Yeah. You can tell she’s just trying to make me feel better, can’t you? That’s the thing about the Bandits. We always have each others’ backs, even if one of us is off in left field with regard to Christmas trees. *heavy sigh*
Bandita Susan Sey said, “I prefer real…In our on-the-road-for-Christmas years, we sometimes will buy a really small real tree (think Charlie Brown’s Christmas).”
I found a ray of hope, though. She went on to say, “Sometimes, we just decorate my extremely tacky fake tree from Target. It’s about two feet tall and comes complete with LED color-shifting lights built into the end of each needle. It’s wicked awesome. Like a disco ball/Christmas tree mashup.”
That’s the kind of tree that both my mom and my father-in-law have now. Very space efficient. And I’ve gotta say, they do rock.
I remember a couple of years when my mom had a retro silver aluminum tree. I hated those when I was little (when they were NOT retro) but now I think they’re kind of cool. They reflect any colors around them and are just straight up fun.
Disco trees notwithstanding, artificial trees of all kinds have come a long way. I have to get up close to some of them–even touch them–to know whether they’re real or not.
Still, it’s obvious that I’m outnumbered. I’m thinking of applying for minority status.
My squeamishness about cutting down a live tree (or buying one that’s been cut down) is definitely in the minority. With a fake tree, there’s no magical smell of evergreen that says “Christmas” any time you breathe it in. There’s no “real tree in the house” energy about it.
But you don’t have to water an artificial tree. And it doesn’t drop needles or turn brown.
Bandit Buddies, what do you do?
Is your tree real? Or fake?
If it’s fake, what color is it? How tall? And do you miss the touch and scent of the real thing?
If it’s a real tree, where do you get it? Do you cut your own? If not, where do you buy it?
When do you put it up? Is there a special day each year? Or is it whenever you manage to get to it?
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, do you participate in another festival or holiday this time of year?
Watch for our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, with fun and so many prizes Santa can’t carry them, coming in just a few days!