The Christmas Quilt

My 1880s Silk Quilt by Virginia Allain

Over the past 40 years, I collected vintage quilts. Most of these were found at antique markets in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I haven’t added to the collection since moving to Florida.

A few years ago, I took one quilt to the Davenport Quilt show for appraisal. I opted for the quickie appraisal, not wishing to spend the $40 for the written one that would have included an estimate of value for the quilt.


An 1880s silk quilt in a poinsettia pattern (8-pointed star)

Here’s what I learned about it. The pattern is a star block. It appears to have been made from a grey silk dress as there are tucks in some of the pieces. Due to the iron content used in dyes for silk, those pieces are likely to suffer some disintegration over the years. A few small pieces show this with the silk shredding. The appraiser said there is nothing that can be done to prevent this since the harm was done at the time the fabric was made.

The red parts are not silk, but linen. The backing is a paisley that looks to be of 1880s vintage.

The batting is very thin and it is probable that this was never intended for use on a bed for warmth. More likely it was for show or for a lap robe.

Rather than being quilted, it is a tied quilt with red and green ribbons. The green ones have faded to a yellow over the last 130 years, but in a few places, the original color could be detected. With the red and green ribbons plus the poinsettia look of the stars, this might be a Christmas quilt.


A Letter to Santa

(Post by Virginia Allain)

For about 10 years I wrote a weekly newspaper column promoting the public library. I was the library director and it was a good opportunity to get our message out to the public.

I’m sure there are thousands of librarians out there right this minute trying to think of a topic for their December library column. Now they have not only the newspaper but their web page and Facebook fan page to write posts for. Below is my column that other libraries are welcome to adapt for their own local paper or library blog.

Don’t worry about sounding greedy. Santa is used to long wish lists.

Write a Christmas letter to Santa - librarians

What does a library want for Christmas? Write a letter to Santa with your requests.

A Librarian’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa, the library has been really good this year. We will try to be even better next year. Please get us a Dial-a-Story for the children to call. It has a new story for each week of the year and only costs $1,500 for the equipment and tapes.

We need $9,000 more in donations for the Reading Is Fundamental project. Then we can give books to 7,000 at-risk children in our community. If we can raise that, the federal government will also give $38,000.

We’re really hoping to get a Youth Services Librarian this Christmas. We want one who will hold story times and start a junior Friends of the Library group. Please get us one with a Master’s degree in library science.

The library doesn’t have a chimney, so just leave the presents in the book return bin. Have a Merry Christmas.”

Christmas village library with lighted windows

My lighted library that I display at Christmas.

A Martin Family Thanksgiving

Ten years ago, Gail’s daughter Virginia wrote this memory of a long-ago Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving family photos

“Almost forty years ago. It’s hard to understand that so much time has passed. I look at the black and white photos. On the back of the photos, I’d written 1968 and the names of the people in the pictures. Of course, I knew their names without having to look on the back.

There’s Mom, looking so youthful. She would have been 44 then and years younger than I am now. She paused while removing the turkey and stuffing from the oven so I could snap this photo. She’s wearing the white sheath dress with the leaf pattern for the occasion.

Another shot shows Shannon, age 10, helping Dad fill the relish plate. There are olives, sweet gherkins, and cinnamon apple rings. Shannon looks so sweet in her jumper and a white blouse with a peter pan collar. Her black hair reflects the light and she’s wearing glasses. Her face is serious with the responsibility of helping with this holiday meal.

The round oak table is set with the white ironstone dishes. My grandparents gave that table to my father many years before. He ate at that table from childhood onward. Instead of a tablecloth, there are placemats. Beyond the big round table, a card table will accommodate the little ones. Even with the extra leaves in, the oak table couldn’t hold the expanding family.

The windows and curtains help me identify the house we lived in then. It was on North Emporia. The next summer we moved to State Street.

thanksgiving family photos

There’s a photo of me, looking much trimmer during those college years. All that walking across campus, I guess. In the photo, I’m setting out the desserts on the desk that was serving as a sideboard. I recognize Mom’s German chocolate cake. The four pies are probably rhubarb, pumpkin, cherry, and a pecan pie. Although the photo lacks color, my mind fills it in. I’m wearing olive green stretch pants, the kind with the stirrup, and an olive green paisley shirt. It looked good in the sixties.

There’s my older sister, Susan. She wears a navy maternity smock and there’s her son, Paul, just a toddler then. Peering into the shadowy background of the photo, I identify her husband, Ron. Only a few years after that, he died in a car accident. I wish I’d taken more photos.

Here he is again in the group photo of the family ready to sit down for the Thanksgiving feast. Larry and my sister, Cindy stand just beyond Ron. This was while they were dating and their marriage still a year away. Now their children are grown with families of their own. Next to them is Karen, who was still in high school. She’s wearing a polished cotton dress with wide cuffs that Mom made for her. Our brother, Owen, isn’t there. It’s the Vietnam War era and he’s away in the army.

The table is filled with serving bowls. I know their contents even though I can’t see the details in the photo. There is cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, deviled eggs, and stuffing. In later years, more favorites were added such as five-cup salad with the orange slices, whipped cream, bananas, maraschino cherries,and little marshmallows.

The next photo shows Mom and Dad as the meal finishes. The family always lingered around the table, telling stories and enjoying the company. Soon we put away the over-abundance of food for a few hours and cleared the table for card games. Nolo was a favorite and also Spoons. Later in the evening, the food reappeared for a buffet. Still sated from the earlier feast, everyone managed to nibble on their favorite dishes and squeeze in another piece of pie.

The final photo from that long ago day shows Mom and three of my sisters in the kitchen “washing up.” Actually, Mom was washing the dishes, Shannon drying them, Cindy putting them away. Karen brought the plates into the kitchen from the table.
I’m thankful that we had that time together and now I have the memories of those good times saved in these photos. Our lives have moved along. I live far away. We are older now. Marriages have come and gone. Health problems crop up. Shannon and Ron are gone.

Still, when that special Thursday in November comes around, I know my family will gather. They will eat turkey and sweet potatoes. They will share laughter and storytelling and card playing. The little ones help fill the relish plate. New toddlers sit at the children’s table. The women will clear the table and wash the dishes. There is still much to be thankful for.”

Comments from That Post on Our Echo:

What a great memory piece about a warm and loving family. I really enjoyed the way you used the photos as you told the story, and adding the part about what people were wearing was nice. Brought back memories of favorite outfits I had in the 60’s. Very nice writing. Nancy Kopp

Very nice! This piece has the feel of “remembering Manderley” from the novel Rebecca. (My memory tells me that Shannon’s jumper was red.) Karen Kolavalli

Hey, Virginia, your memories took me back as if it was yesterday. Almost like in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he sang “Traditions.” The food is always great at Thanksgiving, but it truly is the getting together as a family and or with friends that make it so wonderful. After Larry and I married and moved out of state, coming home for Thanksgiving was always such a treat. Cynthia Jo Ross

I do have an earlier memory of a large family get together where we as little children set on a stairway with our plate on our knees. One child to a step all the way to the top. Cynthia Ross

I remember that one, too–I believe it was at Howard & Marge’s big house in Madison. Karen Kolavalli

Your story exudes a warm, familiar, family feeling. Yours was a family blessed. BJ Roan

Your story seems very similar to what I remember about the family gathering for Thanksgiving in 1988. I love the adds memories about the colors in the clothes and the description of the photos. K.D.

Oh Ginger, I read this through my tears. A wonderful, affectionate, joyous, nostalgic, heartbreaking memory of holiday dinners at my sister’s home, many of which are in my memories too. Carol J Garriott

Great memories from the black & white photos. Takes me back to last year when I posted my Thanksgiving memory “We Gave Thanks Prairie Style” where I added the pen & ink sketches that Shannon drew. Enjoyed your memories, Mom (Gail Lee Martin)

Should Kids Say Thank You When Trick or Treating?


Teaching kids to say thank you for Halloween treats (Available from Zazzle:

Halloween excites children. They have a marvelous time in their costumes while hurrying from house to house trying to fill their bag with candy. In the excitement and the rush of the trick or treating, is it realistic to expect them to say “thanks for the candy?”

Some little ones are tongue-tied when the door opens and they just hold up their bag expectantly. Other, bigger kids might grab a handful of candy if you hold the bowl out to them.

The people giving the candy have fun seeing all the costumes and enjoying the children coming to their door. I used to encourage children on my doorstep to at least say “trick or treat,” when I handed out the candy. You can also remind them after they have the candy in their bag. “What do you say?” They will toss a rote, “thank you,” as they jostle their way down the steps.

When I asked friends if children should say Thank You for Halloween treats, they answered:

  • Yes, they should, and hopefully, their parents are around to remind them. But, some children aren’t capable. My daughter did not talk until she was about 6 years old, and I know kids much older who cannot talk. So, you never know! You can’t really assume they are being rude. They might have autism or another developmental issue. (Frischy)
  • Absolutely……we as parents take them trick-or-treating at an early age, and if we teach them to always say thank you, then hopefully it sticks when they are bigger and venture out on their own. (Kathy M.)
  • We were taught to say “thank you” when we were kids and even though my daughter is considered nonverbal, I prompt her to say “trick or treat” and “thank you.” It’s OK if younger kids don’t, but I don’t like to see older children who can’t say thank you or anything. And years ago, we used to talk to them when we gave out candy, commenting on their costumes, etc. Nowadays, it seems they are gone in a flash with no time for a word, much less two: thank you. (A.J.T.)
Teach children to say

Teach children to say “thank you” when trick or treating (photo courtesy of Pixabay)

(Originally published on Bubblews by Virginia Allain)

Tips for Late Christmas Cards

Sometimes Christmas sneaks up on me and the Christmas cards aren’t sent in a timely manner. Maybe it has happened to you too. Perhaps you’ve been ill or had to work extra hours at your job or had some other disruption to your plans.

Here are some ways to deal with tardy holiday cards.

late xmas cards

  • Facebook Greetings

    Just posting “Merry Christmas” on your Facebook status is a little lame. It’s better to compose a reasonable Christmas letter that’s newsy and send it using Facebook’s message capability.

  • E-Greeting Cards

    There are plenty of sites that have cards to send to your e-mail recipients who aren’t on Facebook. These cards are quite colorful, often sing and dance and let you add a thoughtful message. One company for free Christmas e-cards is Blue Mountain Cards. To find more, just Google “free Christmas ecards.”

  • Phone Calls

    Hopefully, you have unlimited long distance calling on your phone because this is the way you can reach all your offline friends. It takes time to ring them all up and have a good chat, but that’s what happens when you don’t work on your Christmas cards earlier.

  • Mail Out Christmas Cards After Christmas

    This is an alternative to the first three suggestions. Send the cards with a “Happy New Year” or “Best wishes for a great year” penned in after the Christmas greeting. Try to get them in the mail right after Christmas.

  • Skip Christmas Cards This Year

    You can get away with this if you are right in the middle of moving, getting a divorce, have been sick, or are coping with a major family upheaval. Next year, send your cards early and explain what happened.

(Originally posted on List My 5 by Virginia Allain)

Cindy’s Christmas Memories

Cindy Ross, our guest blogger for today, is Gail and Clyde Martin’s fourth child. She shares her Christmas memories with us.

As a child, it seemed to take forever for Christmas to arrive. I remember the anticipation while waiting to open gifts early that morning. 

It could be very cold if Dad hadn’t stoked the fire in the potbelly stove. So, if you arrived downstairs too soon, you’d be scampering back to that warm bed.

Our stockings hung along the staircase and you could almost peek into them from up above. We were lucky to get an apple or orange, ribbon candy, or a candy cane.

I loved the wooden bowl Mom placed on the table holding the English walnuts, cashew, Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts to be cracked open. The slender metal picks in the center of the bowl helped get the nutmeat out of the shell.

For fun, we played Fox and Geese in the snow, but only after we finished feeding and watering the rabbits and chickens.

rustic wooden nutbowl with cracker and picks

This is what the nutbowl looked like.

Comment from her older sister, Ginger: “Thanks, Sis, for writing this. I’d forgotten where we hung the stockings and about the bowl of nuts. Now, I remember how exotic those nuts seemed and how difficult it was to crack the hard shell of those Brazil nuts. There were hazelnuts too. Christmas was the only time we had those.

I hadn’t forgotten how cold it could be in that uninsulated Kansas farmhouse. We would huddle around that woodstove in the living room while hustling into our clothes. Upstairs there would be ice on the inside of the bedroom windows.”

Thrifty Gift Giving Ideas

This is a variation on an earlier post. Gail often reworked a topic for publishing in other places. This appeared on Squidoo’s website.  Some of these gifts are ones you can get ready the day before Christmas using what you have at home.

Giving Gifts without Spending Too Much

Seniors can find gift-giving occasions difficult when their budget won’t stretch to buy one more thing. Here are some gift ideas that won’t put a strain that Social Security income.

Most of these I’ve tried out myself and can assure you were well-received. A little imagination and a lot of love will make your gift the one they treasure. With six children, eight grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren, the Christmas and birthday gift giving was a challenge. Seniors living only on Social Security must apply creativity in their gift giving to keep it affordable.

Give a Family Treasure when you can’t afford to go shopping

Think about things you have stashed away unused. We no longer decorate a tree at Christmas, but we still have boxes and boxes of special ornaments. I can give one to each person on my gift list. I’ll gain some storage space and they’ll gain a family heirloom for their Christmas tree.


 Give the Gift of Memories

Grandparents’ memories make a precious gift

Write down a special memory of the day they were born or about something you did with them or their parent. Print it out or write it by hand on nice paper to give them. Slip it in a plastic sleeve to preserve it. If you write a new memory for their birthdays and Christmas, eventually they will have enough to fill a binder.

Here’s One of My Grandchildren’s Family History Books

That I compiled with my writing over the years

A family history notebook created by Gail Lee Martin for her son, Owen.

A family history notebook created by Gail Lee Martin for her son, Owen.

Vintage Books Make Great Gifts

from a senior citizen

Look on your bookshelf. Is there a book there that has special meaning to you? Write a note explaining what is meaningful to you about the book and give it to someone on your list.Old Vintage Books iPad Case speckcase They will enjoy reading it, knowing that you selected it especially for them.

Lincoln biographies on bookshelf

Books on Clyde and Gail’s bookshelf.

Everyone Loves Grandma and Grandpa’s Baking

Food gifts to give when you’re on a tight budget

Make up a batch of your popular candy or cookie recipe and package it up to give to the children and grandchildren. Just a small amount on a paper plate (dessert size) and covered with plastic wrap lets them know you were thinking of them.

Attach the recipe to the gift.

To make it extra special, put them on a plate or platter that has been in the family for many years. They get a family heirloom, some of your great cooking, and you gain some space in your overcrowded cupboard.

What Do You Collect?

 Look at your collections. Chances are you aren’t adding to the collection anymore. It may be just one more thing to dust.

We collected Norman Rockwell mugs for many years. If we give one to each family member, they will think of us each time they use it. We also collected Feather Bird Pictures. They used to cover the wall of my dining room but now sit in a box in the closet.

Another thing I collected was vintage aprons. I used these when giving a talk to homemaker groups or at nursing homes.  At some point, you may decide not to keep a certain collection anymore. Consider giving them as gifts to family members.

Even if you are not on a Social Security budget, you might want to try some of these ideas.

Give Me Some More Thrifty Ideas

for gift-giving on a Social Security budget

  •  1angelsbestkeptsecrets Mar 27, 2014 –  What wonderful ideas! I think the sentimentality and specialness of gifts like this would please most all family members.
  • karendd123 Nov 26, 2013  – These are really good ideas. They are thoughtful and economical. Growing flowers from seeds or cuttings can make good gifts too.
  • ewyorkdude Oct 14, 2013 – I can’t remember the last time I bought a greeting card. Homemade greeting cards make a much better impression than the store-bought kind. Most people tend to keep them longer. I will never be a professional artist (my work is more like Picasso on a bad day). But no matter how awkward my drawings are on my cards, people appreciate them.
  •  rinMellor Oct 11, 2013 – These are wonderful ideas. A few handwritten family recipes would be a real treat too.
    knowledgetoday Oct 08, 2013 – I think the greatest gift from grandma or grandpa to family members or friends is memories brought together in a creative way. And if creativity is not available giving a gift of what the other person has wanted for many years means much to the receiver.
  • MarcellaCarlton Oct 01, 2013 – I loved each idea! This is a great lens for those of us who are experiencing the pinch at any time.
  • Cercis Sep 30, 2013 – What a wonderful lens! I like the memory book idea the best. Another thought is to shop at a thrift store – either neighborhood or one of the more established ones – to pick up almost new items for pennies.
  • WhyCleanCounts Aug 05, 2012 – great ideas, good lens topic for anyone that needs to stick to a budget around the holidays.
    dpgibble Jul 06, 2012 – I was exploring Squidoo for ideas when your page caught my eye. Curious, I stopped and found a direct connection to vallain who was the first or one of the first visitors to my first lens. Since our family survives on disability income along with a dollar here and there that we hustle up, celebrating Christmas on a budget piques my interest. We picked wild grapes last year and made pint jars of jelly from them. This produced about two dozen gifts with cash out at less than $25. People really liked this gift!
  • Gail-Lee-Martin Jul 06, 2012 – Homemade gifts are the best, in my opinion.
  • LiteraryMind Mar 16, 2012 – Good idea. Meaningful gifts are more special than anything money can buy.
  • MiddleSister Feb 21, 2012 – I like the cookies idea.