Happy Homestead-y Holidays

As promised, here’s my Dec. 24th last-minutes postings.  Some of you, if you’ve missed this past month’s postings, may not appreciate some of the jokes/limericks/verses, but you can always refer back because I know so many of you have TIME!

Dec. 24th  – The first book I ‘read’, when I was 3 (mostly memorized and pretending to read, I expect!) was ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, which tonight is – so it’s fitting I write in verse as follows:


Early in the morning, Looking ‘slightly worse for wear’, The old farts traipse downstairs, To heat the house with care .  That same fire’s been a-burnin’, For many weeks on end, Should we toss in notes to Santa, As that’s the best way for them to ‘send’?


How sweet that this poinsetta, Is wrapped in burlap sack, As that’s what Julie’s business is, “Rustic Revivals” kept on track… For Christmas eve deliveries, we received this full of charm, from the realtor in Grand Falls, Who sold us our dream farm!


The reds go with our kitchen blues, and tie in with all fabric checked. They sit proudly on the old scales; the halls are all now firmly ‘decked’!


The gingerbread made weeks ago, then frozen so they’d keep, Have now been thawed and frosted, The benefits now to reap:


And who’s the first to reap them? Richard’s caught stealing a bright pink star, These pink ones dyed with beetroot juice,  “All Natural” as we now are…  That chair in which the old fart sits, bald head ne’er cold in cap? That was just completely fixed as a gift- but it doesn’t ‘wrap’?  Richard worked so hard on it, and sourced out spindles, e’en, to match, And now it’s strong for company, and on the floor it doesn’t scratch!

Other deckings we have done, To bring Ma Nature in, We’ve added brush and berries to a mug, and cut some tin, to hold the branches sturdy, and on the cookstove cold, we’ve added sumach also, as it’s red and ‘berry bold’!


Richard’s helped to clean the house, as it’s his family that are coming.  While upstairs, Mother/Joy cleans too, we can hear her vacuum drumming!



While Richard goes for one last ski, with his second-hand pole and boot, Julie runs through carols she once played with cousins’ flute.



We aren’t getting dressed today, As for midnight ‘mass’ tonight, We have to dress up prettily, and sing in church – it’s RIGHT.  Because the reason for the season, is what it’s all about, but first we’ll go to neighbours’, and eat more food, no doubt!

The table’s ready for tomorrow,  with birchbark name cards matched-up, with the Victorian mantelpiece you saw before, ready for our Christmas sup.  The lovely ‘antique’ centrepiece, as I have posted prior, Is Grandma Johnson’s NOEL set, for candles, and hung higher:

the angel food cake tin, all hole-punched, to make an o’erhead light, with added wire wound about, posted last fall at our Thanksgiving lunch.  This is a Rustic Revivals original, made for several different tables, and I always decorate per season, this one with nativity’s stables!

Stables are important, because of Christ’s birth, not the least. They’re also personal to me, as I’m often found in one, with beasts:


Horses became my life, one Christmas when I was two, “Mommie, Mommie Horsey Cold” was my first sentence, see – it’s true!  And since I became a young adult, when graduating high school, I’ve collected all many of ornaments , equine donkey, horse, or mule:


The first one I collected, Hallmark-dated ’83, Matched my first pony Silver, so ’twas like I’d put him on my tree!  To the right is the little guy, trained to pull red sleigh, with Christmas gifts for family, one 1978 winter’s day…



Strangely enough, the year I passed my Riding Instructor’s exam, I rode my Palomino for it- he made me what I am!  And that very year, ole Hallmark, puts a palomino out for sale! How fabulous for me – just look at that white mane and tale!


Such a great way for memories, to go with my dated ‘rides’ ; whatever colour horse I rode, Hallmark’s horses coincides!  In 1991, my buckskin took me provincially, to championships so high, and now there he hangs upon my tree!

Other horse ornaments are special, too – I love to see them once a year. I have some from ’round the world, brought by my mother and friends so dear.  Here’s a nesting doll from Russia, and another from Ukraine – but it isn’t just the horses that on our tree are lain.

As Mom is a musician, and so is sister Jen, pianos, harps and trumpets combine with violin, and while some homesteaders simplify with strings of berry and popcorn, my Mother’s made decor from, strips of fabric that she’s torn – the red and green are circles starched together and then glued, the ivory trim at back is from a neighbour’s stash, accrued.

Yes, as you see below – music and fabric were Joy’s life. Like any good homesteader, she sewed and cooked as a housewife. But also, there was music, and every Christmas eve, we’d put on her homemade garments that she would sew or weave, and Jen would play or we would sing, and puppet play for family fun, then we’d fondue and enjoy the magic. Twas indeed a Christmas – Home-spun!

Jennifer bows after violin hymn, Julie accompanies Jen on piano as they sing Christmas carols, then on to the fondue with the  Johnson grandparents – Joy is top left, Julie below her.  (in pantsuit- ‘don’t sew me a dress- I won’t wear it!)

And Richard’s not forgotten – his German Dad would be so proud – we always like homemade, so these are perfectly allowed: a wooden nutcracker stands before a wasteland that is frozen – and this natural corn-husk doll displays his lederhosen!

Richard and his brother John, were both so cute when young – here they are as little Germans, on which their outfits closely hung!

Richard’s in the red, the freaky ‘ghost’ you saw at Halloween. Jean-Marc’s the sweet and shy one, in the lederhosen green.

There’s also quite a few to tell the story of “Rich-with-Jewels”.  The corn-husk angel sports a hat that makes her look a fool! She wasn’t really wearing it, it’s just hung above her hair, and represents when Richard came to my tack store on a dare.  The other is of cardinals, and this one makes us GRIN. It represents how we’ve lived together in what’s called “Cardinal Sin!”


So, there’s the tree in all its glory. We cut it from the side, of a New Brunswick wintry back-road, and I never even cried!  I usually do, because I never like to cut a tree. But this one was crowding out two others, so in a way, we set THEM free!

And one last thing to keep life simple – besides the mason jars of homemade goods, and all the sewing, weaving, woodcraft, that are our gifts, here in the woods – a neighbour boy who’s grateful for the friendship we have given, cut up a bunch of kindling and tied it with a ribbon. And that’s the greatest gift of all, so make yourselves quite merried, by enjoying HOMEMADE, SPECIAL THINGS – they are as precious as they are varied!


We’ll let Smitty have the last word, ’cause Christmas is for JOY – And this dog always has a ball, E’en when he’s been a naughty boy!





Old Decembers


In the kitchen with my Great-Grandmas,

(Though I be fifty-two!) 

  To help pass a cold December along 

When e’en more baking will accrue!


Two neighbours in the last few weeks have lent me recipe books – one was an actual one to use on a daily basis,full of Danish recipes and hints written by the ladies of this county, Victoria.  It’s had several printings but it was originally done in the 1890s. And so, as New Denmark WAS a large part of the county, Danish recipes figure prominently within.  But another very exciting book to me was written by Dr. Chase – publication date, 1862 –  it was dedicated to the in-office President at the time – Lincoln!    And it has some great old tid-bits I simply must share!

An Ontario friend also wrote and asked me for my Grandmother Johnson’s old favourite – Florida Ice (a quick dessert with orange juice and bananas she always kept in her freezer for us and our visiting friends.) And that got me thinking that I must look up some of the old recipes in the recipe book she gave to HER mother (my great-grandmother) one cold December in preparation for Christmases to come….


I love the title page, and the dedication page in this 1862 book of Dr. Chase’s :


I find it interesting indeed that Dr. Chase felt it necessary to ‘explain’ sandwiches to women who were very likely well-versed and experienced in every possible type under the sun!  I’m also surprised that they were making peanut butter sandwiches in 1862, aren’t you?  And do you not think that he could have just said in a line under the title: “Moisten all these sandwich fillers with salad dressing !  (mayonnaise) ”   Too funny!

But, though Dr. Chase’s book was full of recipes (the most basic of things, by the way, almost as if it was really written for bachelors, though he says it’s information for EVERYBODY) more than half of it was about other useful tips:


If you’ve been following this blog since the summer, you’ll know that I used a similar concoction like the old milk paint (chalk/lime paint) to historically renovate many of the rooms and furniture in this old farmhouse.  I find his phrase “it is too cheap to estimate” quite humourous, especially as to purchase it in a store today, you will find it more expensive than most paints! (Why I mixed my own!)


He is not very specific about how to ‘make’ various forms of metal as above, and the finishes on them. Like the sandwiches, I suspect you pretty much already need to know how to do these things, as he doesn’t really tell you HOW!


I love these little asides he gives – that gentleman from Indiana who told him how to make a good black ink for a banker… and how he’s never actually tried it, but should mention it in case it’s a good way, and would be lost to the world other than from his own pen!

And most interesting of all!  So many buildings burned in days of yore ( I know the original barn on our Blue Belldon Farm, did.) that he actually advises not to use blue ink because it won’t hold up in the heat of a safe when the building is burning down! Love it!

Many of you will know that besides Rustic Revivals and Rural Revivals, another little side-line business I have is called Juliet’s Quill.  So I enjoy reading about various inks and how they are made.  Here are some of my works, to do only with recipes (the wedding and poetry works will be mentioned at Valentines and in the spring when I do some romantic/lovey-dovey blog postings!)

If you’re at all interested in the variety of calligraphy styles, you can view my Juliet’s Quill shop on etsy here:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/julietsquill

You might be forgiven for thinking that this book of Dr. Chase’s was really written for men, but then you’ll have a special smile for this:


“Broken Breasts” ?  “Injections for female complaints”?  “Excessive Flooding” ? – Yikes!

and hey – he’s even writing for young ladies entering puberty, in ‘plain and delicate language’. Well, I ask you – how can he be both plain AND delicate?  And by the way – exactly what would the ‘failure’ be of treating a female hemorrhage with Professor Platt’s remedy.  A fainting spell, or an actual fatality?

The above is from his index.  So enjoyable I had to share a few other pages from it. Click on each circle to enlarge:

Apparently Dr. Chase knows everything in the world – from advice to give unemployed young men, to how to make a ‘gravel house’ ? – and have you ever seen currant ‘catchup’? I wonder at the latter term;  I always understood the generic term to be “catsup”, and then Heinz came along to coin “ketchup”.  If you look up ‘catchup’, there’s certainly no mention of the condiment to which Dr. Chase is referring!

Enough of the good ‘doctor’ (bet he was just a travelling Medicine Show  “doctor”, to begin with, like this: )


Now, in order of age of books, I’ll present the Victoria  County Ladies’ Cookbook next:


Apparently, of all the ladies of Victoria County, not ONE was talented enough to write their own ‘ditty’ for the front cover? They had to get a man to do it! grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

This book is quaint, as it has many delicious ‘exotic’ recipes, as well as the French, English and Danish basic ones from the area’s first settlers. Click on each photo below for a caption.

Another thing I enjoy from these books is that they just quickly write our the ingredients and amounts, and don’t make a big deal explaining how to combine and bake everything. Saves a lot of space!

Lastly, the real connection to my own relatives.  If you’ve been following the blog all along, you’ll know that I use a bread board made by my great-grandfather, for my Grandma McKenzie.  In the Juliet’s Quill shot, above, was a picture of “Hawkie”, or Gram Hawkins.  Her blind husband Will, (who died from his diabetes long before I was born, but I did know Hawkie quite well…)  made the bread board I still use for his daughter, Dorothy, pictured below:

Now blue breadboard (orig. light milk-paint yellow) made by my great-grandfather for my Grandma McKenzie. I use it nearly every day.
from l-r – our farmhouse a few weeks ago, Grandma McKenzie, whose breadboard I use for bread and pastries, and Grandma Johnson, whose recipe book Christmas gift to her mother inspired the next bit of blogging. If you can get these old card catalogues from libraries, they make GREAT recipe card filers, as well as junk drawers, nail and screw organizers and, like my own pigeon holes, pictured below, for spice boxes!

Both photos of my grandmothers (above) were taken on or near their wedding days.  Grandma Johnson, far right, gave this book to her mother, Maude Lipsit, of Straffordville, Ontario in December of 1936.

Maude, my Great-grandmother, was a Johnson before she married a Lipsit.  Then her daughter, my grandmother, married a different family of Johnson.  I still have some engraved “J” silverware which goes back to the great-great Johnsons.  Here’s Maude on HER wedding day, posing with one of my Rustic Revivals’ burlap and vintage lace wreaths (some of the lace actually from Maude’s own old placemats, so it’s fitting that she be seen here!).


Incidentally, these wreaths have been a best-seller for me in the past. One was sent to California, one to England, and  TWO to the outback of Australia.  (Apparently they don’t have anything like the kind of burlap we are used to here in North America!) These primitive wreaths can be hung on doors or walls, or you can untie and remove the bent wire clotheshanger I have put on the back to keep its form when hanging, and place it on your table with a bowl in the centre full of floating candles, roses, fruit or other bowl-fillers.  The link to the wreaths is in my Rustic Revivals’ shop here:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/71210683/custom-burlap-and-vintage-lace?ga_search_query=wreaths&ref=shop_items_search_6

Anyway, it isn’t so much the pleasure of having  my grandmother Johnson’s hand-writing preserved here in several ‘clippings’ (she ALWAYS wrote in pencil), as well as that of my Great-Grandma Lipsit’s:

but it’s fun to read the quotes on the front of the envelopes meant to hold all the clippings from either the newspaper, or the hand-written collections. The quotes are amusing (and again, nearly entirely written by men, of course!)



and, in addition to these fun verses, is perusing the many ads and articles from pre-WWII and during the war.  So many Christmassy tips for sending baked goods to the soldiers!  And of course it’s always interesting to read the prices!

so sad that ‘the boys’ had to just receive some old candy and stale cookies from overseas for their Christmas gifts, made by their wives and mothers
How nice it must have been, less than a century ago, to just address something as , for instance “Bovril, Park Ave. Montreal”. Three easy words, and no numbers at all in the address! Mind you, I’ve heard of old letters from the 1800s being sent simply to, for instance, Mrs. S. Fudge, Canada. That always gets me!
Ah, me – a box of seedless tangerines , a doz. for 33 cents! No wonder they were often used in stockings as a special treat!
all that Christmas prep. for ‘the boys’ overseas was likely being done around Hallowe’en!
This almond paste will be used for making Richard’s favourite marzipan, as it was a tradition in his house growing up and New Brunswick doesn’t seem to have it! Don’t you love how you have to ‘send away’ for the rest of the recipes and instructions, though?

With all this interesting historical reading from clippings saved by my great-grandmother, it’s a wonder I ever actually get BAKING.  But here’s the proof that I DO – at least nearly every 2nd day:


There I is, with Great-grandmother’s recipe book close to hand.  The Christmas apron is from my friend in England, with whom I’ve spent several Christmases, when I lived over there on the Yorkshire moors…He thought it was funny to give me that, as the only thing I ever made HIM and his family for Christmas was red and green jello.  (Which they call ‘jelly’, and which they only ever eat as a dessert). And that takes us right back to my beginning statements about the difference between “jam and jelly”depending  which side of the ocean you hail from.  And I don’t remember seeing any recipes using ‘jello’ in dear old Dr. Chase’s book!

Speaking of old ladies at Christmas, this is the 3rd near-life size Mrs. Claus I’ve made and sold through Rustic Revivals’ primitive dolls line. (Entirely made with old rags, all natural fabrics)  She’s my favourite by far!  Reminds me of my own great-grandmothers, all ‘sugar and spice’….

I’ll write one more time later this week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Blue Belldon Farm.  When you live self-sufficiently it’s important to wrap in an eco-friendly way, and save everything, and not overspend on presents, but to make them instead (or buy them at surplus/salvage/sales, or buy something you have to have anyway – like Richard has a set of snowshoes as his present so he can go off in our woods in the New Year and start cutting next year’s heating!)

So, I’ll be sharing some photos of these things to help you get in the spirit!


A Country Christmas Contest

Just a quick note from my Rustic Revivals – a little promotion in which some of you might be interested …

It’s here! Have fun with this one! If you’re a regular fan/follower of the salvage and folk art of Rustic Revivals, play this and have your name put in a draw for a FREE house/door/stalldoor/wall sign made from barnboard and worth $55.00! (you pay shipping only, between $10 and $20.00 depending where you live – we can ship inexpensively to both the USA and Canada). They are one of our more popular items because they are SOOOO personalized for YOU and YOURS! This is a weekend contest only, so the name will be drawn and put on Facebook, etc. by Monday, arrangements for the sign made by Monday night, and by the end of the week the sign could be on its way to you! You have to have ALL the answers right to have your name put in the draw, so chances of you winning are GOOD! Simply pm (private message) the TWELVE numbers that correspond to a Rustic Revivals’ item in this photo of Blue Christmas warehouse goods that didn’t make it to the shop floor this year! On Monday morning I’ll list the runners-up whose names are going in the draw, and then I’ll have two of my neighbours (one to pull, one to witness) perform the deed and VOILA ! YOU may be the lucky one! (Hint: there are several ways you can check your ‘guess’ if you’re unsure… but I’m not telling you how; that’s for you to figure out! 😉 )


For those that aren’t familiar  with what the prize might be like, here are a few samples we’ve done in the past. Click on anything you want to increase in size:


If you’d like a clearer picture of the contest “warehouse” space, it is below, without the numbers, or you can see it on my 3 FB pages :  Rustic Revivals, Rural Revivals or Julie A. Johnson:


Have fun with the contest.  Hope you win!

Secluded Habits ( not about monks)

While the title may sound like I’m about to write another history lesson, this time, perhaps, of robe-draped priests who are living in an unpopulated area, it is about nothing of the sort. Charles  Dickens will play a large part of this posting, and it is from that good sire that the title comes:      “We are men of secluded habits… whose enthusiasm, nevertheless, has not cooled with age, whose spirit of romance is not yet quenched… (We are) spirits of past times, creatures of imagination”… from Master Humphrey’s clock

(Incidentally, the term “boredom” has been attributed to Dickens in the past, but there is proof that it was used much earlier than when he coined it in his Bleak House.  Regardless, there is certainly no amount of BOREDOM here, with winter life on the farm – we are all finding many great things with which to occupy ourselves – and not all of them entail ‘work’ or ‘ keeping ourselves alive”. )

For, as the snow continues to fall around us, and the nights have grown much colder, we, though isolated, are no less busy.  Jack London, who will also be mentioned within this writing, has a wonderful quote :”The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall USE my time.”  Well, much like the Victorians and the pioneers before us, we are USING our time.  The following photos will explain how we are happily ensconced in our cozy farmhouse in the white wilderness of the Appalachians, preparing for an old-fashioned Christmas and for many months of possible seclusion.

While some may just sit in windows looking out in apathy and dreaming of spring,


and while others may find it difficult to stay warm inside unless the “snowy roof” is at least insulated,



keeping busy is what we are all about at present.  Yesterday, to prepare for the 6 members of Richard’s family who will be staying with us throughout the holidays, I baked gingerbread cookies of a variety  of shapes, and made divinity fudge (with our local honey instead of corn syrup) mint candies (with our own mint jelly) and some other sauces and bits and bobs. Today I made the usual bread, as well as cinnamon rolls and dog biscuits. Also chicken soup yesterday and beef stew today, both from scratch and still using some of our veg. from the garden, though we are already starting to run low on some of those!  So the kitchen work, as always, is keeping me

R O C K I N ‘….


Richard stays busy with cutting, stacking, splitting wood, as well as keeping the furnace burning, and occasionally too, our living room fireplace, which has a wonderful up-draft and thus keeps that room very tidily warm and pleasant.  And with the decorating started back there (though we have yet to go out and chop down a tree), it is the place where we love to cozy-up.  Smitty adores sitting by the hearth, especially if there is someone there to hug!


I generally decorate for either a Primitive Pioneer Christmas mantel, or a Victorian (or sometimes a combination of the two). This year the theme is based on this ‘old list’ –


A pair of children’s skis hang above the mantel shelf and all along the shelf are the above items, traditional toys on the wish list of the more well-to-do Victorian child.  Many of these are symbolic to the world at large, and personally sentimental to at least one of us.


As my good  earthenware pottery dishes (incidentally, they ARE based on Franciscan Monks!) are of an olive and frosty-mint green celtic-type pattern, I often try to incorporate those two greens into the regular Christmas green shades (above)



(Below)   With “Mommy, Mommy Horsie Cold!” being my first sentence and horses always being a huge part of my life, a collection of rocking, stick, hobby, wheeled and prancing horses come out of their boxes in December to gallop across the festive decor. A large Victorian rocking horse today costs several thousand dollars in an antique shop (if you can even find one), so my smaller sculpted-clay ones have to represent what those children might really have been hoping for. The antique Swiss Alpine Log Cabin which is a music box (another popular Victorian Christmas present to those of the mid-to-higher classes) was given to me when I was two or three by my grandmother’s Aunt Sada. Music boxes were originally snuff boxes (which my grandparents used to collect and display). The original snuff boxes were tiny containers which could fit into a gentleman’s waistcoat pocket. The music boxes grew from that to table-top size. They were usually powered by clockwork and originally produced by artisan  watchmakers. For most of the 19th century, the bulk of music box production was concentrated in Switzerland, building upon a strong watchmaking tradition, so it is fitting that mine was made there, I think!  The first music box factory was opened there in 1815. On one of the two tins is an icy scene depicting a teenager and a young man, which always reminds me of Richard’s father in Hamburg, Germany.  He has only recently revealed to us that one winter he, as an expert swimmer even at age 17, saved a young 14 year old girl from drowning in the river.  She had been walking out on the ice and had fallen through.  Hans was awarded a medal by the town mayor and then proceeded to keep this modestly quiet and a secret from his entire family for the next 60 years!   Behind these three items are the birch-like candles in their pottery candleholders which were chosen for me by Mom for one of last year’s Christmas gifts, so I’ve added birch logs to the entire display to accent with white.


Addition of Victorian tags from Mom/Joy – a perfect enhancing accessory:



Sock-stretchers are a fun way to suggest Christmas stockings of old. This one (below) hangs above a gorgeous ship’s captain’s wheel given to us when we moved here by Richard’s brother, Jean-Marc, who is an engineer for many of the ships in harbour in Saint John.



Below, a favourite paper streamer of mine that I’ve had since my late teens.  It depicts the Christmas tradition, especially in Victorian times of the Boxing Day Hunt, either for fox or stag.  Traditional hunting as organised sport is a seasonal activity which takes place in the coldest months of the year.  This is because scents evaporate faster in hot weather than in cold weather.  In the UK  the most traditional day for hunting is Boxing Day, so called because the higher classes would pass a box around to collect monies or foodstuffs for the poor, or their own servants.  Servants were usually given Boxing Day off, as they would have had to wait on their masters’ families throughout Christmas Day.  The only waitstaff who had to work Boxing Day were the unlucky servants of the host of that year’s hunt, as the mounted riders would be served sherry and baked treats before and after their day in the field. Although I was never lucky enough to ‘ride to hounds’ in a fox or ‘drag’ hunt (the scent is just dragged by a human, no animal is killed) when I lived in England, I DID get to participate in a snowy hunt one February in 1984 in Michigan. (And of course, in England there would rarely have been as much snow falling as temperatures are much more mild!)

Also, above, the Victorian practice of decorating trees and real pine or burlap garlands with cinnamon sticks, cranberries, and/or popcorn was a natural and fun way for all members of the household to take part in joining in the festivities.  And I only illuminate with primitive amber or just slightly-more modern white fairy lights to best replicate the Victorian tradition of lighting evergreen boughs with tiny candles.

Below, many Victorian authors who were already popular at the time, wrote serials in many periodicals (magazines or newsprint journals) for Christmas readers, and these would later be made into anthologies, like Dickens’ two on our mantel :  ” Christmas Stories”, and “Christmas Books”(A Christmas Carol is of course included in the latter.   These are his others:

  • 17 December 1843: A Christmas Carol
  • 16 December 1844: The Chimes 
  • 20 December 1845: The Cricket on the Hearth
  • 19 December 1846: The Battle of Life
  •  19 December 1848: The Haunted Man 
  • 1852-66, Christmas Stories, which incl:  A Christmas Tree, What Christmas is as we Grow Older,The Poor Relation’s Story,The Child’s Story,The Schoolboy’s Story, Nobody’s Story  )                                                                                                                               Jack London’s Christmas stories, while I don’t own any of them, are represented on our mantel by Call of the Wild and White Fang. Richard loves these adventure novels, and I often feel especially connected to these too, as I spent one December living and working – on Klondike Gold Rush claims for the museum-  in Dawson City, Yukon, and one of London’s more popular stories is entitled “A Klondike Christmas” (1898).


Also, in above – while Punch and Judy, the famous puppet show, was a Victorian phenomenon and at its height of popularity then, it actually has its origins with Italy’s comedia dell arte (the character being Pulcinella then) in the 16th century, and the English version was being interpreted not long after. In fact,  famous diarist Samuel Pepys noted that he enjoyed the Punch Play  in Covent Garden in 1662! It is also still seen in England today, with Punch being much less verbally and physically abusive to his wife Judy (orig. named Joan), and much more politically correct in front of his very young audiences at the seashore!   My Punch is a heavy cast-iron bank, meant to replicate a Victorian toy on wheels and with a pull-chain, to advertise cigars.  I always put him next to the novel “Punch” written by a very Victorian author, known only as “Miss E.C.Phillips”.  What I love about this book is that, as in the nameplate on the inside cover, it was awarded to my great uncle Sydney Johnson (for whom my own late father was named) by my great-great grandfather J. Johnson, for perfect Sunday school attendance for the entire year of 1884!

Click on the above two and below 8 to enlarge and read the captions for explanations. The Victorian Centrepiece (series starting below)  for our long table will be my favourite ever, I believe.  One trick I can offer – if you just can’t find the right colour candle in a taper, buy it in a votive or glass-molded, then purchase white candles and pour the melted wax from the desired colour over the top of the white ones- a lovely old effect!


The above is the centrepiece that began from my grandmother’s Noel set of angels that she had either on the table or the sideboard every Christmas.  Of course the colours are chosen to go with those Franciscan earthenware dishes of mine again… that lovely frosty mint-green. And the mirror on which everything sits is an old salvage-piece metal one with touches of the olive and frosty green as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                             Click on any of the below to enlarge and read captions :


To read more about what we’ve been up to lately, especially Joy/Mom, click on each of the photos below and read the captions. ” Joy at Christmas”

For those who may not have seen Mom/Joy at her loom, or spinning wheels, or seen some of her amazing creations in the past, click on the photos below:


Now, with all of these inside pursuits, or “secluded habits”, I wouldn’t want any of you to think we DON’T enjoy the beautiful winter outdoors as well. Just because we know how to keep busy enjoying our “Living Life More Simply” , “Back-to-Basics” lifestyle, it doesn’t mean we aren’t happy to start exploring the snowy mountains as well.  I’ve tried skiing a few times, although the snow is deep and very wet, and this afternoon Richard’s young pal and our neighbour, Zeb, came out and did some snow-boarding down the hill in front of our house and down to the neighbour’s potato barn (in Christmassy green)!  Richard of course thinks he must try this next time!


But for now, Richard is happy doing what we ALL probably love best, and certainly don’t have time for during the busy spring, summer and autumn months on a farm that is aiming for self-sufficiently – and that’s READING!



And even Simba the cat can be cajoled away from his secluded habit of staring out the window all day, to join us by the fireside once in a while for a cuddle!