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Al Young Studios Newsroom
Holidays Articles


Forgotten Films: Holiday (1938) and The Late George Apley (1947

By Nancy Young

 In the post-Christmas and early January days of eating, shopping, and watching bowl games and parades, two films are well worth chancing after your favorite team has been knocked out of contention or the computation of how many daisies, roses, and gardenias went into making barge-sized parade floats just doesn't hold your interest. Both films are holiday-ish, without being overtly so, and therefore tuck very neatly into the after-Christmas days—particularly since they're all about happiness being more important than money (something it's good to remember when all the funds vanished under the Christmas tree)... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Christmas, Forgotten Films, Holidays, Recommended viewing


St. Lucia Day, sweet and bright

By Al R. Young
My husband Al's two years in Scandinavia when a young man provided him, among other things, with three imperishable predilections: a love of  light, of warmth and of cardamom.  So St. Lucia's Day, when light wins out over darkness and the warmth of flame re-emerges--and almost as important, when there's cardamom-spiked bread for breakfast--we like to take advantage of the concept.

When Elspeth was young (pictured right), we dressed her in full Lucia regalia and made the more traditional saffron-scented "Lucia Cats," sometimes even taking them about the neighborhood; but now we observe the tradition by making loaf-sized Lucias, use the slightly less traditional cardamom flavoring, and gobble them up all day long... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 14 No. 1, 2013, Beauty and home, Bread making, Christmas, Holidays


Black Friday and dark chocolate

By Nancy Young
We liked this Victorian summation of Christmas shopping, above, from an 1876 etching reflecting the fact that nothing much about the urge for bouts of seasonal spending has changed in 137 years.  The poem that originally accompanied it, spoke of  "shopping, shop, shop, shopping," until everyone was "dropping, drop, drop, dropping."  And that was even before "shop, shop, shopping" already commenced as soon as the pumpkin pie had been served up on Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday became a synonym for a make-or-break Holiday business season... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 14 No. 1, 2013, Christmas, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


May Day and maidens

By Al R. Young For the third year straight, we received another delightful bouquet from our angelic, anonymous May Day benefactress.  
While thinking of angels, we remembered this under-quoted piece of verse from the rather angelic Godey's Lady's Book editor, Sarah Hale (most famed as the author of Mary Had a Little Lamb--and speaking of under-quoted, we've always loved the fifth verses best:  "What makes the lamb love Mary so?" /The little children cry-/ "O Mary loves the lamb, you know," / The teacher did reply:")... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Floral arrangements, Flowers and garden, Holidays


Eastertide brioches and bouchons

By Nancy Young


For the first time ever the spring issue of the journal didn't make it out before Easter.  We blame the demise of two computers and their attendant files for the delay--luckily Tanner, our resident computer whiz, saved the work, but a new computer and reconfiguration ate up too many of the days of March.  (Of course, the issue will still be appearing in mailboxes soon!) 

By way of a modest apology, we're sending out a couple of easy, but scrumptious Eastertide baking ideas--Brioche a Tweets and Almond Bouchons as well as our wishes for a lovely and memorable Easter Sunday... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 7 No. 4, Vol. 13 No. 2, 2013, Bread making, Brioche a tete, Easter, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Memorial Day and summer picnics

By Nancy Young

" Putting down her pail, Emily thinned out the too lavish lilies of the valley.  She raked the dead leaves, clipped the long grass, and dug a hole on each mound, into which she sank an empty jar.  Taking her pail, she went to a nearby pump for water.  She filled the jars and inserted the still dewy bouquets."  Emily of Deep Valley

There are few books that capture the essence of Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) as endearingly as Maud Hart Lovelace's Emily of Deep Valley, which commences and ends with the sweet small town celebrations of the holiday... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 4 No. 4, 2012, Bread making, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Happy May Day

By Al R. Young
While men cultivate flowers below, God cultivates flowers above;  He takes charge of the parterres in the heavens . . .   ~Henry David Thoreau

Our valiant and anonymous May Day phantom sent another luscious bouquet yesterday, and our sole means of thanks is to share their beauty with all of you.  A happy and flower-filled May (of both the garden and heavenly variety) to all you from all of us at The Storybook Home Journal!... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Floral arrangements, Flowers and garden, Holidays


Thanksgiving gluten-free alternative to stuffing...

By Nancy Young
Facing the first Thanksgiving with our newest sweetheart-of-a-niece-in-law just diagnosed with gluten intolerance, this was our concoction designed to give some of the satisfactions of stuffing, without the wheat-laden woes. Of course it doesn't go inside the bird, but it's as moist and satisfying as it if had. And while it's unlikely that anyone's going to mistake it for grandma's stuffing in a blind taste test, it's a very nice, very filling side dish all on its own.  We thought we'd share it in case any of you face similar challenges either for yourselves or your holiday guests... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Forgotten Films: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and The Ex Mrs. Bradford (1936)

By Nancy Young
 I'm sure I'm not the only one who would never think of classifying Arsenic and Old Lace as a "forgotten film," but after an hour of listening to a movie reviewer and his radio-talk retinue of phone-in suggestions for viewing on All Hallows Eve, and never hearing Frank Capra's classic recommended by anyone--the grisly, ghastly, macabre, and just plain silly apparently being preferred--I don't want to miss the opportunity of recommending what I consider to be the Halloween equivalent to Capra's ultimate Christmas film:  It's a Wonderful Life... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Forgotten Films, Holidays, Recommended viewing


Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Pie

By Nancy Young

Unlike most recipes researched for The Storybook Home Journal, we've named this for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, not because we have the slightest proof that either Washington Irving, Brom Bones, or Ichabod Crane ever dined upon it, though "yellow pumpkins" from Baltus Van Tassel's acres suggested to Ichabod's mind " the most luxurious of pies"--but because it's a rich, wholegrain practically-meal-in-itself pumpkin dessert that, like generous Mynheer Van Tassel, is "satisfied with its own wealth, but not proud of it... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Happy Bastille Day! Lessons from history ala Brioche a tete

By Al R. Young While Charles Dickens and the Baroness Orczy make it easy to celebrate Bastille Day either by sharing a hammock with a fat novel such as A Tale of Two Cities or The Scarlet Pimpernel, or spending the evening in front of a film adaptation of one or two of the aforementioned tales, we've found that, once again, our Brioche has something to say on the matter Of French history.  Instead of being instructed in French phrases, however, it brings Gallic history right to the table... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Brioche a tete, Holidays


To get the whole world out Of bed

By Al R. Young  I was first introduced to John Masefield's poetry by my fourth grade teacher, who had us copy out poetry for penmanship exercises.  Since my penmanship was never a strong point—like Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, I "prized" the "power of doing anything with quickness," since that was the only calligraphic skill of which I was a "possessor"—I was usually done early and could roam over the poetry, catching my tongue on the rhythms and memorizing the bits and pieces that lingered there... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Holidays, Home quotes, Mothers Day


Bretagne Cinnamon Bread, a pastry for Mother's Day

By Nancy Young
 If not-nearly-as-fattening-as-it-tastes is a recommendation—this bread is bliss.  It's perfect for Mother's Day, even if you're both giver and recipient, because it's easy to create as well as luscious.  We concocted it alongside the "Grand Leddy Bannock" for Greyfriars Bobby, but since it's nearer a huge, and continentally chic sticky bun, rather than a Selkirk Bannock, we saved it for the site.   
If the instructions below seem unclear, simply use the same process to create the pastry layers, that appear on page 17 of Greyfriars Bobby... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Holidays, Mothers Day, Recipes by Nancy Young


A beautiful beginning to May

By Al R. Young May was my favorite childhood month of the year—summer vacation would begin before the month was over, teachers were reading aloud more and testing less, and all the fragrant world was blossoming in pinks and whites.  There were shy, wobbly-legged colts in the pastures, alongside elegant weeping willows that were the exact shade of my "spring green" Crayola crayon.  All that seemed summed up in the lovely, lively-hued Mayday bouquet that showed up on our door yesterday—enticingly anonymous... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Holidays


Nestling into Eastertide

By Al R. Young
Every year since our first Spring issue, A Girl of the Limberlost, subtitled "Keeping to the Seasons," we've tried to keep the Easter season in mind as well.  There have been painted eggs, rabbit rolls, bunny breads, floral cakes, Easter cookies and more.  (See Easter Baking 2010 for a little taste.)
One of our favorite projects for Easter, however, is still the bird's nests we created for A Girl of the Limberlost--it's a satisfying bit of crafting that we recently recreated to share with a dear friend... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Easter, Hand crafts, Holidays


Ireland Rose

By Al R. Young A long-time subscriber and past contributor to our Storybook Home Veranda (see Vol 6 No 5: Clover and In the High Valley) emailed us today, and shared the exquisite Valentine cookies she decorated this year. We immediately begged permission to share them with all of you, along with a link to Ireland Rose, her lovely Studio blog, which she graciously granted.

Though Valentine's Day is now past, we felt that any moment when the heart's hungry for beauty is the perfect time to devour some sheer loveliness--so, feast your eyes on these! And thanks, Rebecca, for gladdening these hearts as well as ours... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Holidays, The Veranda


Hand-painted candles

By Al R. Young The Hearth article in this year's Christmas issue of The Storybook Home Journal featured hand-painted candles inspired by Dickens' novella, The Battle of Life and The Pickwick Papers. We simply couldn't resist the idea of personalizing candles to brighten Christmas and the coming year (besides, they made marvelous Christmas gifts!). The article provides detailed visual and verbal instructions for creating candles embellished with mistletoe, sweetbrier, and delicate Christmas greenery... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Christmas, Hand crafts, Holidays


Cheeryble Cherry Sauce

By Nancy Young
Total palate recall may be less than perfect, but this cherry sauce—served up with baked ham at many a memorable holiday meal during my childhood—comes close. Though my mother has long since lost the original recipe, here's a happy (and quickly whipped up!) approximation that satisfied even my discriminating siblings at this year's family Christmas party. Serve it warm with anything from ham and pork roast to ice cream or French toast.

In keeping with our Dickens Christmas, we've christened it after two of Dickens' most delightful characters, the Cheeryble brothers, from Nicholas Nickleby... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Christmas, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Triple Chocolate Berry Cake for Father's Day

By Nancy Young Dads take a lot of bad raps. As far back as my childhood--and that's pretty far--"Father Knows Best" meant that Jane Wyman as Mother actually knew best and Father, played by Robert Young, bumbled his way--albeit it with some grace--through a half hour of Betty-Bud-and-Kathy antics each week. Dads were always beaten at board games by their grade-school-age children in commercials, and everyone from Ricky Ricardo to Fred Flintstone had no clue when their wives were expecting, and went into panic attacks when those wives went into labor... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young


Forgotten Films: I Remember Mama (1948)

By Nancy Young
"First and foremost" every Mother's Day weekend, our family "remembers Mama." A must watch film to kindle every best feeling about a day that can sometimes dwindle into a perfunctory and harried Hallmark holiday, I Remember Mama is a thoroughly delightful remake of John Van Druten's long running Broadway play of the same name. In the midst of World War II, the play was performed to packed audiences aching for a return to prewar family life.
Van Druten had adapted Kathryn Forbe's book, Mama's Bank Account, which also had been an overnight sensation when it was first published in 1943... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Forgotten Films, Holidays, Mothers Day, Recommended viewing


Mother's Day Whole Wheat Poppy Seed Muffins

By Nancy Young


6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons unrefined or refined sugar
grated rind of one large lime
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
juice of one large lime
2 teaspoons baking powder
a fat pinch of salt (optional)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pan spray muffin or popover tin(s). In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, cream together the butter, oil, sugar, honey, lime rind, and vanilla... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Holidays, Mothers Day, Recipes by Nancy Young


Easter baking

By Nancy Young
We're enjoying working on the edible parts of the next issue of The Storybook Home Journal, which will feature Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. We're decorating cakes and cookies in the shape of eggs, chicks, and rabbits, celebrating the Pyncheon cent shop and "Chanticleer the rooster and his two wives."... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Easter, Holidays, Recipes by Nancy Young