Category: Author

Refurbished sleighs, restored bells help ring in the season

It’s been more than a century since the heyday of elegant sleighs dashing through the snow, their bell bedecked equines jingling all the way. Yet in pictures and music and memories, they remain everlasting seasonal icons. Some of these bygone treasures, such as Albany and Portland Cutters, Hudson Vis-à-vis, and brass bells enhanced with distinctive maker’s marks, though long neglected, are being rediscovered in barns, attics and sheds. Not dissuaded by rusted bolts, rotten wood, peeling paint, grunge, and grime, a coterie of dedicated self-educated artisans has taken up the challenge of returning these diamonds in the rough to their former glory. Seventy-five sleighs and counting As a boy growing up in Southeast Missouri, there wasn’t usually much in the way of snow, 77-year-old Jack Bollinger, owner of Kringle Sleigh Company in Imperial, Mo., recalled. But one winter, when the white stuff came down in droves, his minister created an indelible impression by arriving at church that Sunday in a sleigh. A successful management professional 28 years ago, Bollinger sustained a brain stroke, leaving him wheelchair-bound with time and energy to spare. Somehow, the memory of that childhood event resurfaced, inspiring him to try his hand at restoring a sleigh like the one he remembered. The learning curve was high, but the satisfaction was great, and Bollinger searched auctions and online for more specimens to revive, eventually growing the...

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Konopelski: As seen on TV

As a former performer on the Broadway stage, it’s not that far-fetched for local chef Steve Konopelski to take a dramatic approach to his baking projects. Whether it’s in front of the camera for a Food Network special or in his Denton bed and breakfast, Turnbridge Point, his confectionary creations continually keep people on the edge of their seats. Konopelski opened Turnbridge Point with husband Ron Griffith in 2015, after renovating one of Denton’s majestic Victorian-era homes built in 1868 on the Choptank River. Its five guest rooms are named after former owners of the house and its expanded commercial kitchen houses Konopelski’s baking business and periodical cooking classes he offers. When he’s not entertaining guests there, he’s doing it on television, starring in two recent baking competitions on The Food Network. In 2015 he was a finalist on The Holiday Baking Championship. For the the final challenge, he made his traditional vanilla cake with the theme carol singing, featuring fresh fruit, fondant and lyrics along the side, making some of the lyrics bigger than the others. “I love carol singing and I know when you go, there is always someone singing the loudest and others singing quieter,” he told The Star Democrat in 2015. “I think it represents someone unique.” This year, he was back on screen for the Haunted Gingerbread Showdown — and this time he won...

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Pinecone creations naturally Christmas

Christmas can be overwhelming with choices — picking perfect presents, finding a tree that doesn’t scrape the ceiling but makes the room look full, and most importantly, deciding which cookies to make. (It’s easier to decide which cookies to eat. All of them!) One of the choices I had been wondering on was what Christmas decorations I wanted to make with my little ones, as silly as it sounds. My kids love to see their parents’ scribbly childhood writing on the back of a pom pom wreath or see the rough cutting on a candy cane mouse made in our childhood and have been looking forward to making their own decorations to go down in Milby Christmas tradition history. But what do we do? The answer was soon poured all over our kitchen floor. My son, Landon, is quite the gatherer — rocks, acorns, and on a recent trip to Pop Pop’s deer stand, he came back with an armload of pinecones. Since they were sure to be a fixture in our house anyway, we decided they would be the perfect base for some simple and fun decorations. After allowing them to dry out in front of our woodstove, we got crafty! I pulled out all kinds of scraps and goodies to let their imaginations work — paints, beads, pom poms, strings of ribbons and some glue. I got...

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Stockings a well-heeled tradition of American Christmas celebrations

Right along with the Christmas tree, Christmas stockings have long been an essential part of holiday traditions in homes across the world. Taking it back to 1823 when Clement Clarke Moore penned “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” presents the line that is permanently engrained in our brains and still elicits a feeling of warmth and happiness: “The Stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” How stockings actually originated has no concrete explanation, although one legend seems pretty consistent and widely referenced across the board. From the Smithsonain Magazine: “A recently widowed man and father of three girls was having a tough time making ends meet. Even though his daughters were beautiful, he was worried that their impoverished status would make it impossible for them to marry. “St. Nicholas was wandering though the town where the man lived and heard villagers discussing that family’s plight. “He wanted to help, but knew the man would refuse any kind of charity directly. Instead, one night, he slid down the chimney of the family’s house and filled the girls’ recently laundered stockings, which were drying by the fire, with gold coins. Then, he disappeared. “The girls awoke in the morning, overjoyed upon discovering the bounty. Because of St. Nick’s generosity, the daughters were eligible to wed and their father could rest easy that...

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Victorian Christmas traditions

The Industrial Revolution in England helped Christmas reach more homes in the Victorian Era, an influence we still see today in our holiday decorating, cards we send, and traditions we hold dear. Queen Victoria and her family set the example of the ideal family unit, with children, presents and times at home. The Victorian era and mass production helped fuel what we see today in the holiday market. One very Victorian tradition was the Christmas card. A process called chromolithographic reproduction aided the mass production of the Christmas card, and it made this product more affordable for the average person. Scenes of religious depictions, nature, snow and the season adorned beautiful cards that could be sent, via post, to relatives and friends far and wide. Instead of time-consuming letters and hand-rendered depictions, one could send a mass produced card over and over with ease. The tradition of sending a card had begun. Industrialization of the era caused more of the middle class to have disposable income. Due to this new concept in households, there was a rise in the mass market for toys, decorations, and trinkets of all kinds. The Christmas cracker, or cookie, was inspired by French sweets wrapped in paper, and was first invented by Tom Smith, a candy store owner in England in the 1840s. The first Christmas cookies coming out of this era included a...

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