Three Vintage-Inspired Christmas Trees to Make

I’d love to have a majestic tree in a foyer reaching several stories high but since we live in a cottage–without a foyer–it isn’t going to happen.  Instead, we have to go with a table-top tree.  After I turned in my grades last Friday, I went to run a few errands.  One of them was to pick up a tree.  But there were none to be found except for the rosemary bushes that have been trimmed in the shape of a tree.  We’ve gone down that path before and I didn’t want to do it again this year.  To be fair to the tree people, I was late in seeking out a table-top tree so it is my own fault that they were already sold out of them (I knew I should have gone tree shopping instead of grading end-of-the-semester papers! *chuckle*).  The nicer table-top artificial trees were also gone.  And The Mister put the kibosh on an aluminum tree I was eyeballing.  He correctly pointed out that the one I was looking at within our price point was just tacky, ugly, and poorly made.

What is a glamorous mid-century woman to do?  Why, turn to Pinterest, of course!  While looking for ideas, I came across tutorials for popular mid-century craft trees that I thought you’d enjoy.  So, without further ado, here are three vintage-inspired Christmas trees to make:

Tulle Vintage-Inspired Christmas Tree To Make

Instructions for tulle Christmas Tree project to make ModernRetroWoman.com

Source image: Tulle Net: Project 21

In 1958, Sears offered a “new kind of Christmas tree” made out of “glamorous nylon net.”  You could buy this “pre-cut, ready to assemble” tree in 3, 4, or 5-feet versions with prices ranging from $12.97-24.97.  But you don’t need a kit!  This project is fairly easy because it basically entails cutting rectangles out of tulle or net, folding them in half, and then basting along the folded edge.  After it has been basted, the rectangle is gathered, the thread ends are tied off and then the circle is placed on a dowel.  Depending upon the type of netting you get (netting is more coarse, tulle is more refined), this can be a very inexpensive project if you take advantage of half-priced coupons. I think this would be a good afternoon project for mid-elementary children and older.

The best set of step-by-step instructions I found for making a nylon netting tree is by Kimberly Elliot on eHow.com.

Starburst Vintage-Inspired Christmas Tree To Make

 As a child in the 1960s, my mother’s starburst Christmas tree would be unveiled after Thanksgiving.  I’m sure I realized it was made out of toothpicks but I was still fascinated by this white-painted and flocked tree that would emerge from the bag it was stored in for safekeeping.  With five kids and all of their friends, I’m not sure how many years her tree survived.  I should ask her.  

I’m pretty sure that my mother’s version was spray-painted and then flocked with spray-can flocking.  Anyway, since we now know the dangers of  huffing spray paint,  Crafts ‘n Coffee has a nice tutorial on how to make this vintage-inspired Christmas tree using paint, Mod Podge, and micro-glitter.

Magazine Vintage-Inspired Christmas Tree to Make

And, speaking of huffing spray paint, I think almost every Baby Boomer made a Christmas tree out of an old Reader’s Digest and spray painted it gold before decorating it as a school project.  It was fast, easy, and most importantly, cheap.  Reader’s Digest even has a tutorial for making Christmas trees on their website!  In our house, we had the tree but we also made angels out of the folded magazines by adding Styrofoam ball heads, pipe cleaner halos, and paper wings.  You could also make a forest for your mantle by using magazines of various sizes.  When Baby Boomers were making these by the magazine rack-full, magazines were much thicker than modern magazines.  You may need to use several to get the fullness you desire.  Since this project is basically just folding down pages before an adult spray paints it, this project is ideal for younger children.

Have you made any of these types of Christmas trees?  What was your experience like?

 Oh, yes.  We ended up ordering a highly-rated artificial tree to replace the one that got lost two moves ago.  It should arrive today.

Remarkable Fudge {Vintage Recipe}

Remarkable Fudge vintage recipe ModernRetroWoman.com

I am not absolutely positive, but I am pretty sure that this is the fudge, from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookbook published in 1959, is the same one my sisters and I used to make when we were teenagers.   The picture, shown above, seems awfully familiar to me.  We also used the recipe that is on the back of the Kraft marshmallow creme jar but I always remember the Kraft fudge as being a little grittier than the Remarkable Fudge.

Making fudge is pretty straightforward but you need to pretend that you are on a cooking show and have everything ready to pour into the heated sugar, milk, and butter mixture once it has reached temperature.  Other things that are important are a good candy thermometer and a heavy 3-quart pan.  When the mixture starts boiling, it fills the pan and can boil over.  Don’t try to “fudge” (I crack myself up sometimes) by using a smaller pan.  You will end up with a mess and who wants to lose some of that fudgey-goodness to the sides of pan and the stove top?

The instructions say to stir frequently but I start stirring constantly when the sugar-milk-butter mixture starts to boil.  I’ve learned in the past that if I don’t, I end up with scorches in the mixture that can taste pretty bitter (despite all of that sugar!).

I used an 8x8x2″ cake pan but wouldn’t recommend it.  Even the 1 1/2″ square pieces were huge because of the the depth of them.  This fudge is very rich and I would follow their recommendation to use 13×9 1/2×2″ pan for thinner pieces.

Are there easier ways to make fudge?  Sure.  “Extra Easy Fudge” uses a container of frosting, chocolate chips, and the microwave.  But we aren’t necessarily about “easy” or “quick.”  For us, the process of making fudge the old-fashioned way is just as important as the final product.  There is just something deeply satisfying about being in the moment with stirring the sugar, milk, and butter mixture while watching it come to a full boil and then feeling it change texture and consistency as it becomes candy.  Whenever I make it, I savor the memories of making fudge with my sisters (and wishing they were in the kitchen with me).

The recipe calls for a pint of marshmallow creme.  All I could find were 7 ounce jars–thank you product shrinkage!  However, the lack of that one ounce didn’t seem to matter in the final outcome.

Remarkable Fudge {Vintage Recipe}
This vintage recipe for fudge lives up to its name! This fudge is perfect for holiday gift giving or for taking to the office party.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups sugar
  2. 1- 14 1/2 ounce can (1 2/3) cups) evaporated milk
  3. 1 cup butter or margarine
  4. 1- 12-ounce package (2 cups) semisweet chocolate pieces
  5. 1 pint marshmallow creme
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  7. 1 cup broken California walnuts
Instructions
  1. Butter sides of heavy 3-quart saucepan. In it combine sugar, milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat to soft-ball stage (236ºF), stirring frequently.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate, marshmallow creme, vanilla, and nuts. Beat till chocolate is melted and blended.
  3. Pour into a buttered 9x9x2-inch pan (see note). Score in squares, while
  4. warm; cut when firm.
  5. Makes 3 dozen 1 1/2-inch pieces.
Notes
  1. This fudge is very rich and the 1 1/2-inch pieces may be a bit too much. You may also pour it into a 13×9 1/2×2-inch pan for thinner pieces.
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook, 1959
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook, 1959
Modern Retro Woman http://modernretrowoman.com/

What Is Your Christmas Tree Style?

Let’s talk trees.  Christmas trees, that is.  In many ways, your Christmas tree sets the tone for your holiday decorations so it is important to identify your preferred Christmas tree style. 

There are Christmas tree styles?  Yes, Glam Pack, there are.  Now, get out your tablet and pull up Pinterest.  It is time to study the vast multitude of tree styles.  I never said being glamorous was going to be easy.  But the payoff is worth it.

Are you like me?  I go to the tree lot and feel like I should know what I’m doing but really have no clue what the signs for the varieties mean other than some types seem to be more expensive than other types.  Well, apparently you and I are not alone.  A quick search online for Christmas Trees turns up a lot of articles written to help readers make wise choices. 

Here are a few things I learned about “real” trees:

  • You have to plan ahead if you want to get a live tree.  Every year, The Mister and I talk about the possibility of buying a tree that we can plant in the yard.  Sometimes we do  (and for several years, we  used a potted tree) but the trees never seem to thrive in the outdoors.  You see, we were doing it all wrong.  According to the same Better Homes and Gardens article linked above, we needed to prep the hole in the fall and we needed to give the tree time to adjust to warmer air before taking it into the house and then cooler air when we were getting ready to plant it.  But, the greatest mistake we made was keeping it inside for too long.  We should have only kept it inside for 7-10 days.

But real trees aren’t the only game in town.  Artificial trees have their appeal, too!  In fact, The Mister and I spent one Christmas (and our anniversary two days later) at a swanky hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, and took a small artificial tree with us to put in the room.  I’m not sure what the bell hops thought when we arrived in The Mister’s pickup truck, covered with mud and road salt residue (it was snowing when we left New Jersey), and we pulled that tree out of the back and plunked it onto the cart with the rest of our luggage!  But isn’t that part of the fun of it all?  Doing the unexpected?

When it comes to artificial trees, the sky is the limit.  There are trees that look lifelike and there are trees that don’t even attempt to look lifelike at all.  Perhaps this is the year that I’m finally able to talk The Mister into buying an aluminum tree and rotating color wheel.

Finally, and this is where Pinterest comes in handy for ideas, consider the overall style of your tree and holiday decor. Does vintage Shiny Bright ornaments appeal to you or are you more of an old-fashioned popcorn and garland type?  Will you have a big tree in your foyer with classic decorations and a smaller tree in your family room with decorations made by your children?  Will your ornaments all be one color?  How about your lights, if you have them?  Will they twinkle? Flash on and off? Be white or colored?  Will your tree be flocked?  If so, what color (I saw a pink one at the home improvement store the other day)?  Decorating a tree is an opportunity for you to let your creativity and personality show through.

When we were first married, I always wanted to emulate the elegant trees I’d see in the nicer department stores.  But our budget was tight so we’d use ornaments that I either made or bought from the five and dime store (shows you how long ago it was!).  Over the years, friends and family would give us ornaments that they’d made or bought with us in mind.

My Christmas tree style is very simple and homey.  It isn’t elegant.  But I don’t need it to be anymore.  I prefer the tree filled with symbols of my life with The Mister.

What is your Christmas tree style?

The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Recipe

The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Recipe: Turkey Glace ModernRetroWoman.com

If you still have any leftovers from your Thanksgiving meal last week, you might want to finish them off with this ultimate leftover turkey recipe.  The official recipe for Turkey Glace calls for bread crumbs and such.  I always just substitute leftover bread stuffing (or dressing, depending upon which part of the country you live).  The quick and dirty version of this recipe is to spread the bottom of a baking dish with stuffing, top it with cubed turkey, ladle gravy over it, bake it,  add cranberry sauce and bake it for 10 minutes more.  It clears out that leftover turkey you stashed in your freezer in no time!  After you try this, I think you will agree with me that Turkey Glace is the ultimate leftover turkey recipe!

Turkey Glace
Serves 12
This is THE ultimate leftover turkey recipe!
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Ingredients
  1. 6 cups cooked turkey cut into about 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. 6 cups day-old bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes (no crusts)
  3. 3/4 cup butter
  4. 3 teaspoons salt
  5. 1 teaspoon thyme
  6. 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  7. 1 cup finely chopped onion
  8. 1/2 cup flour
  9. 2 cups turkey or chicken broth or part broth and part turkey gravy
  10. 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  11. 2 (1 lb) cans whole cranberry sauce
Instructions
  1. Saute' the bread cubes in a frying pan with 1/4 cup butter. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon thyme and 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning.
  2. Spread on the bottom of a shallow baking dish, 13 1/4 x 8 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches.
  3. Spread the cooked turkey over the bread cubes.
  4. Saute' the chopped onion in 1/2 cup butter; add the flour and the turkey or chicken broth or part broth and part gravy, seasoned with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning and the chopped parsley. Pour this over the turkey and bread cubes.
  5. Bake in moderate oven, 350ºF, for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and spread the top with the cranberry sauce. Bake 10 minutes more.
Notes
  1. I substitute leftover bread stuffing for the bread cubes (and bread seasoning).
  2. This recipe is ideal to make as you are clearing the table from a Thanksgiving meal. Prepare it up to the first baking part. Seal with foil and send it (and the cranberry sauce home) with one of the guests. Don't forget to include the baking instructions!
Adapted from Ladies' Home Journal Cookbook, 1960
Adapted from Ladies' Home Journal Cookbook, 1960
Modern Retro Woman http://modernretrowoman.com/

Survive the Holidays? When Did That Begin?

Collage images courtesy of (1) Classic Film, 1968 Hotpoint Advertisement; (2) James Vaughn/X-Ray Delta One; (3) Totally Mystified, 1949 Seager's Advertisement; (4) Salty Cotton. All images from Flickr.com

Survive the Holidays collage images courtesy of (1) Classic Film, 1968 Hotpoint Advertisement; (2) James Vaughn/X-Ray Delta One; (3) Totally Mystified, 1949 Seager’s Advertisement; (4) Salty Cotton. All images from Flickr.com

 

The Mister and I traveled to my sister and her husband’s home two states away for Thanksgiving this past week.  While at a rest stop, I overheard one woman tell another that she is just hoping to survive the holidays.  I don’t know her situation so I’m not judging her.  Perhaps she recently lost a loved one and the holidays this year bring a wave of tremendous sadness for her.  But her comment made me realize that a sense of holiday survival is starting to permeate our culture.  Advertisements and comedians joke about the dreaded family gatherings.  Health and fitness articles give advice on how to survive the holidays without gaining weight.  And on it goes.

I’m wondering when the holiday season moved from being about joy to being about avoiding stress.  I have a feeling the “survive the holidays” meme began when we starting buying into the “we can have/do it all” falsehood.  This blatant lie leaves us longing for the “good old days” when things were much simpler.  But there is hope!  We can actually get out of the survive the holidays mindset and enjoy the season by making a few changes.

How to Enjoy Instead of Survive the Holidays

  • Tell everyone you are simplifying:  Identify those things that make the holiday season special for you.  For me, it is the music and the mystical events that are celebrated during this time of year.  For others it may be baking cookies or making gifts or decorating their homes or dressing up for holiday events.  It is up to you.  Make a list and then prioritize your top 3-5 things that will be your focus. 
  • Remember that you do have options and choices: Except in extreme situations, you don’t have to do anything.  If you are doing something out of a sense of resentful obligation, let it go.  Talk to the person you think you are going to disappoint.  In my own life, I’ve discovered that I’m the one who usually built up the importance of that something more than the other person.  A few times they’ve even been apologetic that they’ve given the impression that something was more important to them than it was.  Honor their needs, too,  so that you create a win-win situation.
  • Honor your need for rest and recovery:  I am a people-person introvert.   Because I am so good with people, they assume that I enjoy non-stop parties.  I don’t.  About ten years ago I finally acknowledged that big parties are exhausting for me and now I plan accordingly.  If I am attending an event, I plan on quiet “around the house” activities–such as baking or gift wrapping– for the next day.  I carefully pick and choose my events and consider my recovery time as sacred.  I don’t need to apologize or explain to anyone that my “previous engagement” is a much needed rest when I receive an invitation. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to make it but we will be thinking about you” will suffice.  Turning down an invitation may be a great gift to others–getting my rest keeps me from becoming a stressed out grumpy pants who is no fun to be around.
  • Step away from the cash register: We moan and complain about the commercialism of the holidays yet we contribute to it out of a sense of guilt and spend money we may not have on gifts for others.  If you really want to relive the “good old days,” then a rethinking of presents and gifts must be done…especially in this day and age when people are able to go out and buy what they need year ’round.  We no longer need to rely on the annual “underwear and socks” gift to keep us going until the following year.  The Christmas before my maternal grandfather passed away well into his 90s, he was telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren what the holidays were like when he was a child.  He and his siblings were elated to find fruit in their stockings and they, maybe, would receive one toy.  Give gifts because they are from the heart.  I know, for The Mister and me, our favorite gifts that we’ve received from others were quite simple and often made by hand (I’m thinking of a letter holder that my parent’s made for us during a particularly tight year for them).  But that doesn’t mean we treasure handmade gifts over store-bought gifts!  We just want to know that the gift was given from a place of joy and love, not obligation. I know there is a lot of baggage when it comes to gifts but, just because someone expects an expensive gift from you, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.  That is on them, not you.  Don’t feel guilty.  Do what is right for you, your budget, and your peace of mind.
  • Remember that we view past holidays through romantic filters: Look at this holiday season as an opportunity to create new memories instead of trying to relive or recreate old memories (that may not really be all that accurate).  There is no such thing as a perfect holiday.  Thank goodness!  Now we can lower the bar to something much more realistic and enjoyable.

In the past, I know that I’ve just wanted to survive the holidays.  Will you join me in having a joyful and fulfilling holiday season?

What advice can you give to your fellow Glam Packers so that they enjoy instead of survive the holidays?