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Retro Holiday Entertaining

Natural Times, October/November/December 2014

By Michele Hatton

In the 1950s, winter holidays were less pretentious affairs. Great care went into creating simple but personal gifts; decorations were spun from items found around the yard or from cut pieces of felt and ribbon pasted together. A sprinkling of red and green food coloring to a plate of cookies was cheer enough to make the holiday special. 

Fashioning a Mad Men-style holiday this season may be the most grounding activity of your year. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Orange Clove Pomanders  

Pomanders make great ornaments, home-spun gifts, and scented sachets. These clove-studded orbs are not only attractive, but fill the house with a citrusy-clove fragrance.

•    Take an unblemished orange.

•    With a piercing tool (ice pick, wooden skewer or nail), puncture the orange skin in multiple places making sure to keep some distance between the punctures.

•    Insert whole cloves into holes.

•    Thread a large needle with string and run it through the orange; make a knot at the bottom and a loop at the top.

•    As the orange dries, it will release a delicate, spicy fragrance.

•    Hang on a Christmas tree or from a fireplace.

For a fancier pomander:

•    Create an actual design by wrapping rubber bands around the fruit in a desired pattern (diamond, circular, parallel bands). Stud the cloves along the design pattern. The rubber bands guide placement of the cloves and help make your rings even.

•    Cross-tie a ribbon around the fruit and bring it together in a bow at the top. (This must be done before piercing the fruit.)

Pomanders make for a festive centerpiece, too. Stack several together in an attractive bowl and surround with holiday greenery.

Popcorn-cranberry Garlands

Garlands strung with popcorn and cranberries add a colorful splash to Christmas trees and holiday decor. The rich natural red and white combination adds an authentic beauty unrivaled by commercial bling. Accompany it with dried orange slices, bundled cinnamon sticks, and evergreen flora found in the back yard.

•    Thread a needle with strong or doubled thread.

•    Decide how long you want your garland to be. An adult might be able to handle something a lot longer than a five or six-year-old can; the thread can tangle. 

•    Using day-old popcorn and fresh cranberries, sew a garland of popcorn and cranberries in any pattern you like.

•    Place a knot after the last piece and hang.

1950s Cheese Balls

For a great conversation starter when entertaining this season, make 1950s-style cheese balls. Serve them on a platter with a tacky plaid motif to complete the theme.

2 8-oz. packages of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 green onions, roughly chopped
3 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1 small jar diced pimentos
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  1. Use a food processor to mix ingredients. (Cooks from the ’50s broke spoons mixing this appetizer.)
  2. Form into a ball.
  3. Chill overnight in plastic container (a Cool Whip container sprayed with Pam is perfect!)
  4. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  5. Serve with crackers.


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