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Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Day Superstitions

 The following is a re-post from a few years ago.

 New Year's Day Superstitions

I thought I'd better get this post out today - you know just in case you want to do or not do any of these things.  (just kidding folks)

New Year's Day is full of superstitions. Many differ, depending on what part of the country you live in.

Now for us, you just have to eat cabbage on New Year's Day. There's just no getting around it. The stores in our area always put cabbage on sale this time of year. I've already bought me a big head of it. When I was growing up, Mom used to put a silver coin in it (usually a dime) and the one who spooned it out with their helping was sure to come into money that year. I really think it was just a way to get us kids to eat cabbage, though. We all wanted that dime!

Here is a link to how my husband cooks our cabbage. 

And, as far as my grandma went, you had to be a male or you weren't entering her house first on New Year's Day! They said she had her son who lived next door come to her house bright and early. I guess it didn't hurt that he was also tall, dark haired, and handsome, which is another superstition people had about the first footer.

There are lots of superstitions I found on the internet. Some of the more prevalent ones were:

Wear new clothes. This would mean receiving new garments throughout the coming year.
Avoid crying if you don't want to continue the pattern throughout the new year.
Be nice and refrain from using foul language.
Don't let money leave the house. Don't pay bills or loan money on New Year's Day. Or for that matter don't even take out the garbage or shake out a rug! This will ensure that nothing goes out of the home during the new year. Some soften this rule by saying it is okay to remove things if something is brought in first.
At midnight, all the doors must be opened to let the old year escape.
Make sure your wallets, purses and cupboards are well stocked on New Year's Day and it will bring prosperity.
Do not do the laundry on New Year's Day! It will 'wash away' or lead to a death in the family.
Pay your bills or loans before the New Year so you won't have any debt left for the New Year.
Make as much noise as possible at Midnight - you are scaring away evil spirits. Evil spirits hate loud noises, this is also why church bells are rung on wedding days.
Babies born on this day will have luck on their side.
 If a girl looks out her bedroom window upon rising and sees a man walking outside, it is said she will be married before the year is out.
And, be sure to kiss at midnight! This will ensure that those affections will continue throughout the following year.

So there you have it. Be sure and pay all your bills today, go shopping and stock up on groceries, do your laundry, put money in everyone's wallet or purse(even if it's just a few pennies), kiss the one you love at midnight, and then proceed to make a lot of noise!
Then on New Year's Day be sure and wear new clothing you received for Christmas, be nice and polite, make sure a man comes into your house first, then proceed to make a big pot of cabbage for dinner!

That shouldn't be too much to remember.
Do you have any more to add to my list?

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Excerpt from my Book - Fun Through the Seasons

For you, your children or your grand-children. Below is a small excerpt from the December Chapter of my book, Fun Through the Seasons

Hope you enjoy it and maybe do some of the activities listed below with your family. 


Celebrate an Old-Fashioned Christmas

What Christmas carol is a favorite of parents?
Silent Night!

December brings with it the first day of winter and Christmas. Soon you will be watching for the first snowflakes of the season and getting together with your family and friends.

Celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas with all its sights, sounds and smells.

Add some old-fashioned Christmas sights to your house by popping popcorn and making strands to string on your Christmas tree. Hang cookie cutters on your tree, string them across your mantle or use them as napkin rings.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on large pinecones and make a small grouping of ‘snow covered pinecone trees’ to set on a placemat and put it in the middle of your kitchen table.


Add some old-fashioned Christmas sounds to your house by hanging jingle bells on your front door and playing Christmas music on your radio or CD player. Light your fireplace and listen to the crackling of the warm fire on a frosty morning. Sing in a choir and listen for Santa calling, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Add some old-fashioned Christmas smells to your house by baking sugar cookies and spicy pies, lighting cinnamon scented candles, stirring your hot cocoa with peppermint sticks, making cinnamon dough ornaments to hang on your tree and, of course, putting up a piney smelling Christmas tree.

Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, said, “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”

You can visit a neighbor and present them with a plate of cookies or read a Christmas story to a younger family member or friend. Some good holiday books are:

Berenstain Bears Old Fashioned Christmas, The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, God Gave us Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, Olivia Helps With Christmas, Snowmen at Christmas and Bear Stays up for Christmas.

The spirit of Christmas lives in your heart. Give the gift of love and friendship. Make homemade gifts; share your voice by going caroling in your neighborhood. Have a family fun night each week. Pop popcorn and watch a Christmas movie.

But, most of all, remember what Dr. Seuss said in The Grinch That Stole Christmas. He puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought…“doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps …means a little bit more!”

And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!

This is also the time of year we make Christmas decorations and write poems about the season.

Gather your pencils and paper and write down what you like and do not like about December. Write down rhyming words and words that start with the same letter. Here are some words that come to my mind:

Icicles and shiny bicycles, white snow and warm cocoa, skates and skis, frozen ponds and frozen toes, slushy ice and Christmas mice, mittens and boots and Santa Claus suits, frigid winds and fat snowmen, sledding and sliding, red birds and red cheeks and sniffles and sneezes.

M & M Icicles

What do elves learn in school?
The elf-abet!

Tie M & M icicles on the outside of presents for decoration or place them in a pretty bowl for people to eat.

For each icicle, cut a piece of clear plastic wrap approximately 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. Place red and green M & M’s all in a row down the middle of the plastic wrap. Fold over the plastic on both sides and tie the ends with a thin colorful ribbon.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas Hanging Basket

I have seen pictures on the internet of these pretty moss lined hanging baskets converted to Christmassy hanging baskets. They are pretty expensive.

I thought I would make one. So I went to the store and found a couple of those empty baskets. And, they just happened to be on clearance.

I filled it with bendable pine garland.

Now this is the part of the process where you can get creative.
I added a couple of poinsettia bushes, pine cones, a pick, plastic snowflakes, handmade Christmas ball and a handmade felt cardinal.

You can hang it outside on your deck or under the protection of your porch or hang it inside.

I think mine will be hung outside during nice days and brought inside at night and on bad days.

You can also add lights and glass balls to it. Most of the ones I have seen on the internet are decorated that way. I used items I had on hand. And, after I get the rest of my Christmas decorations out, I might add more items to mine. Another way to make it pop, would be to paint the metal parts red.

If these are going to be kept inside, you don't have to glue or tie anything. 

And, unless they are going to be outside in very windy weather, I don't think you will have to do any gluing or tying. Everything seems to stay put pretty good.

I hope you make one. They are very pretty!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Canning Sweet Potatoes and a recipe

A few weeks ago we canned sweet potatoes.

This is the first year we have grown them. We all love sweet potatoes, I don't know why we never tried growing them before. They do have a tendency to vine a lot, so you need to have a space to plant them where they have room to spread out.

Wash them good. Cut out any bad spots.
Put them in hot water for around ten to fifteen minutes.

Take them out and put in cold water so you can handle them easier without burning your hands. The skins come off easy!

Cut them into chunks or long strips. Whichever you prefer. I did most of mine into small chunks.

Put in hot jars. I keep my washed jars hot by keeping them in a 150 degree oven.

Put a teaspoon of salt on the potatoes and fill jar with hot water. Leave a little head space.
Put on lids and and rings and then into the pressure canner for 90 minutes. You have to pressure can sweet potatoes!
Snug lids hand tight - do not over tighten the rings. If you over- tighten the rings, the lids may warp during the processing (especially if you use wide mouth jars). This has happened to us before when my husband tightened the lids too tight before putting jars in the canner.

After processing, make sure the cans seal. Listen for the ping!

As always, follow the instructions in your canning booklet.

We didn't can all of our sweet potatoes. They keep well. I will use the others for casseroles and pies.

Click here for a good site that tells all about growing and harvesting sweet potatoes.

Have you ever ate a sweet potato pie? They are very good. Here is the recipe I used.

Cinnamon Streusel Sweet Potato Pie

1 1/2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 T corn syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ginger


1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
2 T butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice (pecans or walnuts)

Place cookie sheet on oven rack. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix mashed sweet potatoes with remaining filling ingredients with wire whisk (or mixer) until smooth; pour into frozen pie crust.

Bake on cookie sheet 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake 20 minutes longer.

Mix streusel ingredients and carefully sprinkle over filling. Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and streusel is golden brown. Cool completely.

Serve with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

This pie is very good. It did not last long at our house.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fall Tomato Cage Tree

I thought I would do a post on a fall decoration I recently made.

Buy a tomato cage - or if you already have these, all the better. Turn it upside down and tie the ends together with twine. It has a tendency to lean, so you might have to straighten it a little.

Wrap it in a garland of fall leaves.

There are different ways to do this. You can swirl it around and around or go straight down the wires. The leaves are swirled in the first three pictures.

 I tried different toppers. Once, I topped it with a straw hat, once I topped it with a pretty fall bow and finally I topped it with a small corn pic.

 Experiment and try different toppers and different ways of wrapping the leaf garland.

On my deck

in my dining room!

My final version has the garland(s) going down and across the wires. I secured them with pieces of thin ribbon. You can use orange, yellow or beige ribbon. It blends right in with the leaves.

I got a basket and placed the pumpkins in it 
and placed it inside the tree. 

If you have a set of small lights, you could string them on the tree.

I love the way it turned out. If you haven't already made one, maybe you could give this easy craft a try.

I love fall!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Freezing Corn - the Easy Way

I love corn put up in the freezer. It is so much better than canned corn from the store - much better.

I used to do it the hard way. I would blanch the ears of corn, then put them in ice water in the kitchen sink to cool. This was very time consuming, messy, and used a lot of ice.

This is how I do it now. And, if you don't want to make a sticky mess in your kitchen, do it outside.

First, you get a bunch of corn . . .

Shuck the corn and cut it off the cob . . .

Get a couple of big pots and put a stick of butter, 1 cup of water and 4 T. of sugar in each one . . .

Add 10 cups of cut off corn to each pot with the butter, water and sugar mixture . . .

Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes

Pour the corn into containers to cool . . .

Then fill your freezer bags!

                                I put three cups in each bag

I don't know what I would do without my freezers.

If you are really feeling energetic, take the corn cobs and make corn cob jelly. Click here to see how I did that last year.

Have you put up any food this summer?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Family Reunion

Saturday we had our annual McMillion Family Reunion.

Close to forty family members came out in the cool and slightly rainy weather.

We had a great time! In addition to our auction, which raises money for the reunion, and playing Bingo, we had lots and lots of good food, fellowship and fun photo opportunities in our little 'photo booth'.

We brought props, such as an old pitch fork, eggs and egg basket, hay bales, hats, aprons, pumpkin, bench, etc., to make each picture fun and unique.

My cousin and her son painted the above picture on plywood. They went by this old photo of our grandparents, taken in the early 1900s. I think they did a great job. We all had a fun time posing as Grandma and Grandpa. 

I remember when I was young we would all meet down at Grandma's house on her birthday for a get together and picnic in her yard.  I guess that was what you would call our early reunions.

Do you have family reunions? What fun activities (besides eating) do you do?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Canning Potatoes

We've been canning this summer. First green beans, then grape and apple jelly and now potatoes!

This is our first attempt at canning potatoes.

It takes around twenty pounds of potatoes to fill seven quart jars (which is a canner full).

We filled a five gallon bucket with potatoes, washed them . . . 

and cut them into pieces.

They were put in water with Fruit-Fresh (ascorbic acid) in it to keep them from turning brown. When you finish cutting them, drain off the water you soaked them in and add boiling water over them and bring them to a boil and cook for two minutes. Drain them again and put the potatoes into quart jars. Then add fresh boiling water over the potatoes in the jars along with a teaspoon of salt.

Attach sterilized lids, twist on rings and put into your canner.
Do not twist the rings on too tight or the lids might warp during the canning process. (We learned this the hard way. The wide mouth lids have more of a tendency to do this)

After the canning process is finished (the potatoes have to process for forty minutes), have a strong person twist the lid off the canner. (I think we need a new gasket. The lid is very hard to get off)

 Voila! Your potatoes are finished.

Take out of the canner and listen for the ping!  Aren't they pretty?

It is very time consuming, but worth it if you have a lot of potatoes in your garden! I just hate it when in the winter our stored potatoes start growing eyes and get all soft and wrinkly.

You can open a jar up during the winter and put the potatoes in soup, mash them, fry them or warm them up and eat them the way they are.

We have did two batches so far. The second batch went a lot smoother than the first one. A little practice and experience goes a long way.

We have two more rows of potatoes to dig. I think we will take a little break and then can a few more.

Have you ever canned potatoes? Just follow the instructions in your canning booklet and preserve the bounty of your garden.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Busy Summer

We have been very busy here at the Blackberry Patch this summer.

I have even learned how to drive a tractor. I have been taking pics of everyone else riding and working on the tractor, but no one has taken a pic of me driving one. But, I have been -  I promise.

I have decided that I love tractors as much as I dislike barb wire fences - and that is a lot! They are such a time saver when you have a lot of work to do. We just have a small one, but it is a worker! We bought it thinking we would only be cutting grass with it. It now has a bucket on the front and a blade on the back.

A piece of land my son purchased had a drainage problem. He loves a challenge. A friend helped him do the initial work of digging the ditches and making the trenches above them. The entire family has pitched in for a week helping with the finishing touches.

Wouldn't you hate to do all this work - times two - by hand. 

The night after we did the first sowing of seeds, we had a deluge of rain from the sky. Needless to say, the straw didn't stay in place. So we had to do some re-seeding of grass.

We now know about straw blankets. Wish we knew about them sooner. They are wonderful and so easy to work with! We bought the 8 foot x 100 foot rolls. We placed them down the middle in front of the pipes we put in the ditches.

And, we now know to sow oats along with your grass seed. It comes up a lot quicker and you see some green while waiting for the grass to sprout.

We had two huge dirt piles down at the bottom of the hill. That dirt is now spread out at the top of the lot where we needed to fill in some. We have a small tractor, so that meant a lot of trips up and down the hill. But, my son did it. Then he prepared the soil and we spread seeds on it.

Everything is now seeded. 
We are finished! 

Now all we have to do is sit and watch the grass grow.

But, guess what my son said last night.
"Now that this is finished, I need another project."

One thing for sure. My boys aren't lazy.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Appalachian Food

There is going to be a Potluck & Appalachian Food Program at our library tonight.

You bring your appetite and a dish to share. You can also share an old family recipe and/or family cooking tradition.

I thought and thought about what to bring. I was told I was thinking too much about what to bring.

So, after contemplating on whether to bring an old fashioned stack cake or a blackberry cobbler or  cornbread and corn cob jelly or a hickory nut pie ------I came up with another idea ------ a delicious idea!

Fried apples and biscuits.

Go here for a post I did about them a few years ago.

This was one of my mom's favorite dishes. When her sister knew she was coming up for Sunday dinner, Aunt Irma made sure she had fried apples on the table. I have many memories of Mom sitting at our kitchen table with a paring knife in her hand peeling and slicing the apples into a bowl. The kids would come up to her and she'd hand them a slice to eat.

What comes to your mind, when you think of Appalachian cooking/food?

I remember . . .

Pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread (this was a meal we had on a regular basis. Enough beans were cooked to last several days)

Applesauce stack cake (my grandmother seemed to always have one sitting on her kitchen table)

Buttermilk biscuits
Blackberry cobblers (Grandma had berry vines on her land and every summer we trekked up the hill to pick them)

Squirrel and gravy (A favorite during squirrel season)

Fried bread
Home made apple butter (I love a spoonful with my pinto beans or to put on top a sausage patty)

Black walnuts, hickory nuts (These nuts are great in fudge, brownies, pies and cakes)

Paw Paws (The West Virginia banana. You either love them or hate them)

I have a lot of recipes listed on my side bar. If you have the time, click on them and take a look ---- and maybe try one or two of them.

I have put together two family cookbooks and took them to our family reunions.

I am also in the process of putting together another cookbook titled, Cooking in the Blackberry Patch. I am filling it with pics, stories, poems and . . . recipes.

I will let you know when I get it published. I think you will like it.

 What food did you grow up with - no matter which area of America you lived.

Do you have any recipes or favorite food history story you would like to share? I would love to hear them.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Springtime Beauty

I love springtime and the beauty it brings upon the earth.

Our garden has been planted. Our apple and pear trees are full of little apples and pears. Our blueberries and grapes are full of little green fruits. And our flowers are bestowing upon us their colorful and aromatic gifts.

If I Were a Season
 Janet F. Smart

If I were a season, I would pick spring
when new life sprouts beneath my feet
and sunshine warms my soul.

She calls my name to run outside
and explore Mother Earth’s arena
and sniff her sweet perfumes.

“Come to me,” she chants. “Toss
your shoes aside and let your
bare feet frolic upon my green carpet!”

I lift my head and listen to the birds chirp
as they build twig nests
beneath the rainbows in the sapphire sky.

Yes, if I were a season, I would pick spring.
She renews my weary spirit and
cleans the cobwebs from my mind.

Would you pick spring?