Dec 26, 2013

Scottish Paisley Shawls

Picture from Pinterest
Just recently, I discovered the Paisley Shawl from Paisley, Strathclyde County, Scotland while watching an episode of  Who do you think  are. They were copied from the Kashmir by the Scottish weavers which was famous all over Asia. The original Kashmir shawl might take three people up to a year to make and therefore was very costly.  Beginning in 1800, the production of the famous shawls lasted for about 70 years and then the company went out of business.  The shawls were mass produced, which was then affordable to those who couldn't pay the high price of the original. 

Picture from Pinterest
"On her first trip to Scotland, Queen Victoria wore one of these handsome paisley shawls -- an act of royal courtesy, but one which enhanced the British textile trade and the wearing of paisley shawls. It has been told that the Scottish shawl gave a husband, badgered by his wife for an Indian cashmere one, the opportunity to say, "The paisley shawl is good enough for Queen Victoria. Certainly it is good enough for you."

Picture from Pinterest
In the early 1900's, the shawls became decorative pieces for pianos, table tops, vests, skirts, handbags, pillows, or wall hangings.  I have always loved the pattern and have several garments with the Kashmir or Paisley pattern on them.  But my favorite is a shawl that I have had for a long time made of light wool with red, green, blue, and black in the pattern.  You wouldn't think that it would keep you warm since it is so light, but amazingly it does.

Picture from Pinterest
As I began to search the internet I found lots of garments with the beautiful Paisley pattern.  Would you ever consider wearing something that isn't really "in" style at the time but you like it well enough to not care what others are wearing? I really like the coat above and wouldn't hesitate wearing it.  I don't know about you, but I think that clothing from the early 1900's was very classy and elegant.

Sources: The Paisley Shawl written by Edward Harrison and
 the Christian Science Monitor:
Antique Paisley Shawls can adorn a wall, complement country clothes.

Dec 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Hoping that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Dec 12, 2013

Memories of Christmas

When the nights are long and the air is cold a little jingle begins to play in the air. The snow begins to fly and we snuggle inside our homes for warmth.  It is then that my mind goes back in time to when life was innocent and the best time of year was Christmas.  There was a tree in the corner with gifts all around and the lights twinkled as they nestled in the branches.  The anticipation of gifts is all that a child thinks about, especially me.   

My parents were not big on celebrations and they definitely didn’t get excited like my brother, sister, and I did.  We always opened our gifts after supper on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day we had a big dinner.  The dinners were not the normal ham or whatever is supposed to be traditional for the holiday.  We would have BBQ ribs with whatever sounded good to Mom that day.  The rest of the holiday we lounged around and enjoyed having the day off. 

When my brother and I were about three feet tall, nothing really got past us.  If something was hidden in a low place we were definitely going to find it.  In the mid 60’s, when fire engine pedal cars were all the rage, we “found” our Christmas present in a hall closet.   For some reason Mom thought that if she buried the pedal car beneath some blankets we would not find it.  One day when my parents were still in bed, my brother and I decided to uncover the pedal car and take it for a spin.  We rode in it up and down the hallway.  Mom heard all of the noise and got up to find out what was going on.  “Hey Mom, look at what we found”, I said. She was not amused.  I really don’t remember what happened after that. More than likely she made us put it back in the closet until Christmas.


Observing all of those presents piled high all around the tree was so thrilling when I was a girl.  I remember that there was one particular present that I just had to know what it was.  Each night while no one was looking, I would pick up the package, shake it, and then put it back down.  Eventually, my fingers gently made their way to the taped edge.  Maybe the tape will give way without mom noticing that I have been picking at it.  The tape never budged and the more I toyed with it the worse it looked. Curiosity got the best of me and I poked a hole in the paper.  I brought the package up close to my eye and I still couldn’t figure out what the present was.  So, I buried it in the back and decided to wait until Christmas to see what it was; Besides Mom would be really mad if she saw the hole in the pretty paper. 

Dad bought Mom a food processor in the early 80’s, I was a 20 something year old then.  When Mom opened the box she was thrilled.  Dad and I then started pushing buttons while the machine was on.  Then it stopped running.  Dad and I laughed, but Mom cried.  He took it back to the store the next day to get Mom a new one.  The funny thing is I don’t remember her using it very much after that.  But I was in my 20’s then and probably didn’t pay attention to what she did.

I know that Christmas isn’t all about the giving and getting of presents.  I decided to bake a birthday cake for Jesus.   It was a white two layer cake with chocolate frosting. Jesus had to like this cake.  Who doesn’t like chocolate frosting? I asked my family to gather around the table and we sang happy birthday and blew out the candles.  Then we ate the cake for Jesus and told him how good it was.  When my nieces were small we carried on the tradition of baking a birthday cake at Christmas.  Tiffany and Heather still talk about it.

The year my father passed away we were so poor that we wouldn’t be able to give any gifts. My mother was collecting widow’s benefits and I was only making $3.50 an hour working at the 350 Shop on Broadway.  My church decided to adopt us as their “Christmas family”.  Each of us received a gift plus my family was given a food box.  My present was a turquoise sweater, which I kept for a very long time. I was very thankful for what the church did for us.   I felt as though people still cared for us during our time of loss. 
My oldest niece, Tiffany, wanted what she called a “Garbage Patch Doll”.  Scott’s grocery had a contest to be able to win one.  I wrote my mother’s name down and put the entry blank in the box.  I prayed and prayed to win that doll for my niece.  We wouldn’t be able to afford to buy her one for Christmas.  A few days later my mother received a call from the store saying that she had won.  Thank you God!  This was a Christmas miracle. 

Many Christmases have come and gone since then.  Gifts have been given.  Elaborate dinners have been eaten.  But the best part is when we get together and reminisce about “The good ole’ days”.   The pictures come out and the stories are told all over again.  To me, this is what Christmas is all about.  Family is what we are put on this earth for, to love and be loved, there is nothing more than valuable than this.

Dec 8, 2013

Refreshing Moroccan Salad with preserved lemon

This recipe is close to one that I have been making for years.  I was surprised that Morocco has a similar version.  I served this at Thanksgiving and it was well received.  


2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cucumber, seeds removed and cut into small pieces
1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into small pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 small chili (optional)
2 quarters of preserved lemon, rind only 
1-2 TBS white vinegar
2-3 TBS vegetable oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
salt/pepper to taste
handful of black olives, pitted

Mix all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Toss. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

You can omit the preserved lemon if you don't have any on hand or you can go here to learn how to make them yourself.

Dec 4, 2013

Galette or Pear Tart

 I've had two colds in two months and haven't been sick for three years.  Sorry, that I haven't been on board here this last week.  Today, I felt well enough to cook something or starve.  Well, we all know that it would take a while, but, anyway I am excited about the galette that I cooked today.  It is super easy and I even made my own crust.

One of my co-workers gave me three quart jars of canned pears that her mother cans and then she brings them back from Alabama. I kept trying to think of a way to use the pears. One of my friends made a Galette out of apples that were about ready to go bad. My friend said that it was extremely easy to make.  So, I thought that I would give it a try. 

Standard pie crust: 

1/3 cup of shortening or 1/3 cup of lard
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBS cold water
1 beaten egg
sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
canned pears, apples, or blueberries (fresh is best, but if you don't have it use the canned)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add the shortening and rub the flour and shortening together with your fingertips until the mixture feels like sand.  Next, add the cold water one tablespoon at a time.  Mix with a fork until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl.Form the pastry into a ball.  Place on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to the size of a dinner plate, cutting the dough to the size of the plate, the dough will be very thin.  Discard any leftover dough.

Oil the bottom of a baking pan. Place the dough in the pan and begin to fill the center of the pie crust with fruit, leaving about 2 inches or so around the edges so that you can fold the remaining dough edges around the fruit. Every couple of inches put a pleat in the pastry all the way around.  Brush with the beaten egg. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, then turn down to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or warm custard cream*.  Enjoy!

This serves about 4 people

Cooks note:  If you are using fresh fruit, you will need to add 1/4 cup of sugar or more if you like to the fruit. Put a pat of butter on top for extra flavor. 

*My neighbor served Bird's Custard sauce that was found in the English section at our local grocery store.