Creating a “Christmassy” Table

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Ponsietta Christmas Table Decoration

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1914)

Friday, December 18, 1914: <<no entry>>

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I thought that you might enjoy these hundred-year old suggestions for how to create a “Christmassy” table.

It is the little extra touch that makes a table festive in appearance.

The table itself must be Christmassy in its setting and decorations, however simple, and once our eyes have taken it all in we settle down to the enjoyment of turkey and all the “fixins.”

Forest Christmas Table Decoration

Christmas table decorations

Christmas Wreaths a Hundred Years Ago

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, December 17, 1914: <<no entry>>

evergreen wreath

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, and to get into the holiday spirit, I thought you might enjoy seeing what Christmas wreaths looked like a hundred years ago.

Christmas greenery including a wreathThe wreath on the wall above the sideboard is decorated with tinsel, and a bright Christmas ball hangs at the bottom.

Wreath with ornaments Pretty wreaths are made by tying small sprigs to circular wire or wood frames.

wreath with red ribbons and bellsCrimson ribbon bows make a most effective contrast with the green sprays.

Ladies Home Journal (December, 1914)

Grandma’s April Fools’ Pranks

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, December 16, 1914: <<no entry>>

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Another day with no diary entry . . . sigh. . . so I’ll continue the story about Grandma’s sense of humor when she was an older woman.

My aunt mentioned in yesterday’s post that her mother (Grandma) always enjoyed a good joke or story. She also told me how much Grandma enjoyed playing pranks on April Fools’ Day.

There are several versions of the April Fools story (or maybe Grandma did similar pranks a couple different years). Here’s how my cousin Anne Marie told the April Fools’ day story in a guest post several years ago:

One April Fools’ Day Grandma took an old newspaper from her basement and carefully glued all of the pages together and quietly placed it in our newspaper box. I can still hear Mom laughing when she tried to read the paper that day and it didn’t take her long to figure out who the prankster was.


The Christmas Gift that Saves Work

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, December 9, 1914: Went to Milton this afternoon on a shopping trip. Took my camera down and had the film changed. Bought some Xmas presents and had a time getting them home.

hundred-year-old kitchen gadgets

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Welcome back, Grandma-

Tell us, PLEASE. What did you buy? Maybe some of the latest kitchen and cleaning gadgets for your mother? They might be awkward to carry.

Milton’s at least four miles from your home. You didn’t walk the whole way did you? . . . Did you take the trolley from Milton to Watsontown, and then walk the last mile and a half or so?

old egg beater and potato masher

grapefruit and orange knife

flour sieve


Made the Most Wonderful __________

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, December 7, 1914:  <<no entry>>

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Angle Food Cake Pan (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’ve gotten to know Grandma as a teen very well over the past few years—and I remember what she was like as an older woman when she was my grandmother. But as the diary winds down, I realized that I didn’t know much about what Grandma was like during her middle years—the years when she was raising her family.

So I went to the experts—her children. Today, I’d like to share Aunt Eleanor’s food memories:

As I get older I appreciate more and more that Mom put food on the table three times a day, day after day after day, year in, year out. There wasn’t much elegance about it, but by and large it was good food.

Probably because I married into a family which emphasized presentation and because in truth I was a guest at their company meals, I began to think my mother wasn’t a very good cook. The things I was zeroing in on were the occasional overcooking of meats and a relaxed attitude about cookie ingredients and baking times.

BUT the gravy was wonderful and in her words the cookies “always went.” In speaking of her until recently, I would say, “My mother’s cooking wasn’t great, but she did make a wonderful _______, and that blank could be her vegetable soup (I ate until I was tight as a tick), her angel food cake (before the advent of electric mixers!), her pies (my husband raves about the raspberry custard ones), her cinnamon rolls, etc., etc.

Until she gave in and bought store stuff, she baked loaf after loaf of very good bread, home-canned, and made noodles and deep-fried doughnuts. I’m fairly sure she even made deep-fried potato chips a few times.

And, like Aunt Eleanor, as I get older, I realize that I also appreciate the simple foods that I grew up eating more and more.   My friends eat sushi and fusion foods—while I enjoy trying to replicate the old recipes of my ancestors.

Grandma’s Bake-a-thon
continues. See previous post for  information about how to participate.

Baking Failures Can Make Wonderful Memories

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, December 6, 1914: <<no entry>>

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

As we send Grandma off to live the rest of her life with the Bake-a-thon, I had an “ah ha” moment. Sometimes our best baking memories are the failures rather than the successes.

I recently told Uncle Carl (Grandma’s son) about my plans for the Bake-a-thon. He thought for a moment and then said:

You know, Mom’s cookies weren’t always the best. She’d burn them.

When, she did that, she’d say, “They’ll go.”

And, they did “go” because kids were always hungry.

Mom used that expression without any sense of guilt in burning them.  We were grateful to get them, and they were still very good, as was the homemade bread, which never seemed to get burned.

You must remember they were baked in the oven of a coal or wood fired stove without any thermometer.  That requires quite a bit of guess work.

Uncle Carl’s comment made me think about my first draft of the post I did about my memories of baking cookies. It originally included a paragraph about the time we forgot to put baking powder into the chocolate cookies. (It was a too many cooks thing).

After I’d written that paragraph, I decided that a story about a cookie failure didn’t belong in a post about baking memories so I deleted it. I now realize that I should have kept that paragraph.

Both baking successes and baking failures have the makings of wonderful memories.

How to Participate in Grandma’s Bake-a-thon

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, December 5, 1914:  <<no entry>>

Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons

Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma’s growing up. We’ve followed her life daily for the last four years—but she’s slowly losing interest in writing in her diary, and it ends on December 29, 1914. I’d like to use some of the remaining days of this blog to give Grandma a wonderful send-off to live the rest of her life.

So many wonderful memories of my grandmother are linked to food—and I think that if she was still around that she’d enjoy hearing other people’s stories of a holiday treat that they associate with one of their ancestors.

To celebrate Grandma’s transition to the next stage of her life, I’m organizing an event: Grandma’s Bake-a-thon.

To participate in the Bake-a-thon make an old family recipe, and share the story of why this recipe holds special memories for you.

You may want to tell your family and friends the recipe’s story; or share the recipe on your blog or Facebook page, in your Christmas letter, or by writing a comment on A Hundred Years Ago–whatever is most meaningful to you.

If you’re not a baker, you don’t need to actually make anything—just think about a favorite holiday treat and the person that you associate it with—and share the story.

Let the Bake-a-thon begin!


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