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An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home Hardcover – November 2, 2015
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Ellen Stimson is a bread and butter homecook ... possibly more butter than bread. Her house and table are usually full to overflowing with friends, family, and a whole bunch of folks who have come to Vermont just to eat at her table and listen to her stories. During one particularly misguided period, she churned out her justifiably famous mac and cheese from the kitchen of what was possibly the oldest country store in America. That tale was told in the hilarious bestselling Mud Season. She cooks and writes about the whole divine and delicious catastrophe from a farmhouse in Vermont.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ms. Stimson is a master at making her family's Christmas memories remind you of yours:. There is so much that she has to say about the Christmas season that made me homesick. Case in point: I tasted hot buttered rum for the first time so long ago in Kansas City, Missouri; and this family lived in St. Louis before they moved their clan of children, other animals and books to Vermont. My friend with whom I first tasted that heavenly drink has long since left this earth. And I still own the mugs that I bought to drink the rum in on those frigid Midwestern nights. Ms. Stimson includes the recipe for the drink that Atlanta winters don’t welcome as “Todd and Natascha’s Friend Amy’s Hot Buttered Rum.”
The author includes literally dozens of recipes that she has collected over the years. She says her recipes and simple and easy. (I suspect they are for her.) I’m sure you will find several you want to try, or better still, get someone who loves you to make them for you. I was taken with “John’s Famous Chili,” “Decadent Mac’ n’ Cheese,” and "Guinness Beef Stew." But desserts are what a meal is all about so I moved on to “Cardamon Tapioca Pudding,” “Salted Caramel Turtles,” “Coffee Cream Puffs” and “Maple Pecan Cookies.” (Some of us advocate eating dessert first in case the house catches fire.) And Ms. Stimson probably has a potential fight on her hands with her fried chicken recipe. Every Southern cook I have ever known swears on her great-grandmother’s grave that she has the definite and only such recipe.
Then there is all that talk about the ornaments (with those outrageously beautiful close-up photos of them). Ms. Stimson opens her so accessible book with this sentence: "The ornaments are the first things I would save in a fire." Each family member selects a new one every year as they make a trek to buy ornaments. But the author reminds us that "good rules, after all, are like good recipes. They are mostly just guides." You sort of have to make up the rules as you go if your littlest child sees two ornaments he cannot live without. I found the family's solution both practical and, what is more important, loving. And that white star that always is the first ornament to make it to the top of the tree each year, an ornament that has sustained several repairs throughout the years, an ornament that always beams this happy family in when they glimpse the shining tree from the window as they approach their house after dark. And of course you console a seventeen-year-old daughter who has just broken up with a boyfriend by getting her a new puppy.
Ms. Stimson has a great quotation near the end of this treasure trove that most of us would probably live by:
“I guess I’ll want to spend mine [old age] pretty much the way I always have. I’ll want to cook and wrap presents and sit by the fire with the people and animals I love who love me right back.”
While this sort of book gets published all over the place, I predict that .AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS will set the standard by which the others are judged. It's quite a book. I want to send it to everyone I love.
An Old-Fashioned Christmas by Ellen Stimson is simply a delightful book to curl up with in your favorite chair and savor page by page and be sure not to forget that all important cup of coffee! Ellen shares with us her family’s Christmas traditions along with delectable recipes and wonderful family tales in a witty and conversational tone. I could picture myself sitting in Ellen’s kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee, nibbling on some of the wonderful cookies she describes in the book, and of course snuggling the furbabies.
Ellen lives in a small Vermont town in an isolated mountain home where I think they may quite possibly have even worse winters than we have here and I have to admit all that glistening snow makes for a wonderful Christmas. Ellen most definitely knows how to celebrate the holiday season and in Vermont it seems even more magical with all the snow and sleigh rides. It sounds to me like a magical beautiful wonderland even though I do know how harsh a winter can actually be.
Throughout this book we are invited to make new and special family traditions or embrace the ones we already have. Ellen shares many of her family’s traditions with us like their annual Christmas Adventure or buying special ornaments every year for the tree. When she describes all the hustle and bustle of her Christmas with putting up all the decorations and the beautiful tree they put up in the library and all the food and family I must admit to be thoroughly envious. The recipes are wonderful and as I was going through them I was making notes on which ones I intend to make and there are quite a few … Pig Candy, Golden Tassles, Corn Pudding, Cheddar Grits, and many, many more. Even better she even includes a few recipes for dog treats – most definitely a woman after my own heart.
I think most importantly the message in An Old-Fashioned Christmas is to keep Christmas in your own way. It doesn’t have to be some huge celebration where you run yourself ragged and barely have time to enjoy a second of it. It should bring you joy. Like Ellen my idea of the perfect Christmas is to be able to curl up with my book and my dog for at least some part of the day. The rest is meant to be spent with family and enjoying all the goodness of Christmas and especially all those special treats that so many of us save for the Christmas season. I highly recommend this magical book of Christmas cheer and wouldn’t it just make the perfect Christmas gift! I think so!
I grew up in Michigan and fondly remember those long cold winters where a bowl of stew was magic and a cup of hot chocolate was the stuff of dreams. I now live in Arizona and therefore can only live vicariously through others. Ellen's book makes me long for those days when I would sit on a stool and watch my grandmother cook or bake. I want to put on my fuzziest socks and dance around my kitchen to Christmas tunes as I prepare that decadent macaroni and cheese to go along with the root beer pulled pork. I can almost taste that homemade coleslaw now.
Beyond the recipes, Ellen shares her fondest Christmas memories of family, traditions, love, and laughter that surrounded her home and table. And finally, the photography is spectacular. Oh how I long for a horse drawn sleigh ride accompanied by the sun and a thermos full of homemade hot chocolate. Every ornament featured is lovely and reminiscent to my own childhood and the photo of the Christmas tree on page 263 is swoon worthy as that magnificent tree is surrounded by my favorite thing: books!
Well done Ellen Stimson on bringing us another brilliant book that makes me long to leave the desert and find my own piece of country paradise.