Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Time for a Genealogical Winter!



Who Do Your Think You Are? will return to TLC on Tuesday evenings at 10/9 Central beginning February 24, 2015. This long running show researches the family histories of well know  celebrities. TLC has not released a lot of information about the new season which runs for eight weeks. The Julie Chen episode will introduce genealogical research in China for the first time on the show. Both Bill Paxton and Angie Harmon have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Sean Hayes’ heritage will take us back to Ireland for another glimpse of  family research on the Emerald Isle. 

Genealogy Roadshow, a relatively new show, will spend its second season in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The PBS show runs for seven weeks on Tuesday evenings from January 13 to February 24 at 8/7 Central. This show is much different from WDYTYA as it centers on the ancestors of average everyday people.

Josh Taylor, whom many of you will recognize from genealogical conference lectures, and a team of genealogists attempt to prove and document family folk lore about Blackbeard, the Donner Party, and Marie Laveau, the Voo Doo Queen of New Orleans.In each city spectators were invited to attend filming sessions and were encouraged to bring their research with them. Representatives from well known genealogical societies were available to answer questions and provide suggestions. Altogether these two programs add up to 14 weeks of  genealogy programming during the cold winter months.

So grab your hot chocolate and peppermint ice cream. Curl up on the couch and settle down for a long genealogical winter!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Last of the Christmas Blog Prompts

I did my best to keep up with all the blog prompts leading up to Christmas, but as I got closer to the big day things got hectic. Now I am sitting here eating the last of the Watergate Salad. Winston is happily munching on meatballs and asking Santa to extend the festival of food. So I thought I would catch up with the last few prompts.

Parties! I have to admit in my lifetime I have been to many Christmas parties - neighborhood, office, family, friends, clubs. Good ones, bad ones! But there is one party I have never attended. The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party! Yup, it's true. I have sold hundreds of Ugly Christmas Sweaters on eBay over the last 7 years. I have shipped them all over the world. I can tell you that pastel sweaters will go to France. Any plaid on the sweater and it is headed for Canada. I have sent sweaters to television stations, the set of Twilight, and Washington D.C. I can spot one at a garage sale from the street. I know what neighborhoods they live in. Many years ago, when I worked the holidays at the Lion Store, I even sold them when they were new. I wore them on Christmas Eve when they were in fashion. I gave them as Christmas presents. But, no, I have never been to one single Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

Christmas Wishes! I had one wish come true this year. I successfully made the Frozen Lemon Dessert. Talk about labor intensive! Now I know why the aunts only made that once a year. My wish for a white Christmas didn't come true. Could be because we broke the snow machine last year. Any other wishes I might have would of course involve finding illusive ancestors.

Christmas Homecoming! Yes, we finally did. This was the third Christmas without Chuck. I have no idea why it took so long and I have no idea what the problem was. It just happened. We all got together for a noisy, fun filled Christmas Eve. Maybe it is what they call the "new normal." If any of you are in this transition period, trust that it will pass. Life goes on.

The Meaning of Christmas! It is different for everyone depending on your religion and age. Little kids -- Santa! Teenagers -- a seat at the adult table (and realizing that the kid's table was so much more fun). New parents -- the beginning of a whole new adventure. Grandparents -- a time to sit back and watch all the fun. Senior citizens -- life's lessons learned and miracles recognized.

And this Christmas Eve?  No one wore an Ugly Christmas Sweater although my daughter did give me an Ugly Christmas Sweater Card that plays music. We didn't care that we did not have snow. We remembered Christmas past but celebrated in the present. And, it meant something different to everyone of us, from 1 year old Willie to 70+ year old Grandma.


Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Looks Can Be Deceiving!!

My best Christmas gift was not one that I received, but one that I gave. It arrived early and came straight from the North Pole by special delivery. After Christmas it went back to the North Pole. The next year after Thanksgiving it appeared again and created an enormous amount of mischief until Christmas Eve when it headed back home with Santa.

Yup, you're right. She is Elf on the Shelf. She has been known to paint noses and consume cookies while all were nestled snug in their beds. She was the one who TP'ed the Christmas tree and made a bed out of marshmallows. She skied down the stairs, rode on the ceiling fan, wrote messages on everyone's forehead while they were sleeping and then poured salt all over everything so it looked like snow.

When I first saw her at Barnes & Noble I thought she was so cute and innocent. I could picture her sitting on a shelf during the holidays watching the kids so they would stay out of trouble and off of Santa's naughty list. Ho! Ho! Ho! That seemed to be in her job description. Was I wrong or what? 

I bought her, wrapped the box in white paper with bright red ribbon and added a card from Santa for the little kids. I put the box on the front porch. One of the older kids went outside and rang the doorbell. Another one looked out the window and claimed to see Rudolph flying away from the house. The youngest kids ran outside and found the box. And then the fun began It was a total success. Dani named the little eLf Blink. They played with her and went to bed. 

The next morning they woke up and found out that their toenails were painted, even the boys!! And that was just the beginning! Every year she creates more mischief and every year the family welcomes her back for the holidays with open arms and love.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, the recipes we have been through over the years on Christmas Eve.

For a long time the aunts always made a special frozen lemon desert for the holidays. It had a vanilla wafer crust. It was prepared and poured into a covered refrigerator pan and placed in the freezer. It was unbelievably good. For years I tried to make this desert and it just never turned out right. So I finally quit trying. Today I went to the store and got the ingredients. I have been studying the recipe and I think I know what I did wrong. Only time will tell.

Over the years, looking back on all the Christmas Eve family parties, there were always special recipes. The one that I think has lasted the longest and really needs to be retired is the Green Bean Casserole. I personally am getting tired of making it and I know a lot of people who really don't want to see it on the table any more.

Remember the Overnight 7 Layer Salad? That was the lettuce, peas, green pepper, onion, mayo, cheese and bacon combination that sat in the frig overnight and transformed into this wonderful salad that was big enough to feed an army. We all have one relative who was known for bringing this dish to the annual party. Eventually it faded away and made room for another popular salad -- Watergate Salad.

The Watergate Salad originated at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. It is a combination of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallow and nuts. It is perfect for Christmas because it is green and is best served in a bright red bowl. Very festive and, also, still very popular. . . . although probably not at the Nixon family festivities.

And let's not forget all the dips we went through. Dill, dried beef, spinach, and curry. They were pretty good and I wouldn't be opposed to some of those coming back. For the last several years we have replaced them with meatballs in a chilli sauce and grape jelly mixture, cocktail sausages with BBQ sauce) and hot wings. Occasionally someone would bring a Layered Mexican Dip.

We have been through roast turkey, baked ham, sloppy joes, and meat trays for the main dish. In our 20's we did the turkey. Now in our 70's we do the meat tray or just snacks and Christmas cookies.

It seems the older we got, the less labor intensive Christmas became and over the years the older family members reluctantly turned the work over to the younger ones. It was always hard to make that transition. Grandma didn't want to give it up and the daughters weren't sure they could fill the shoes of the older generations. Each time we switched we got new dishes and lost old ones. Some of the recipes were saved, but for some reason they didn't taste right. Like something was missing. And, yes, we are very aware that the aunts were known for leaving out a key ingredient when they gave the secret recipe to a friend. But they wouldn't do that to us. Or would they?
 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What A Difference A Day Makes!

The only times when I have had to travel out of town for Christmas, it has been to go to Florida. One year when I was very young my parents thought it would be fun to go to Florida for the holidays. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Instead of spending Christmas Eve with my mom's crazy family we headed for Daytona Beach. The only thing I remember that year was sitting in a restaurant on Christmas Day with no snow and lots of tears. We packed up and headed home right after breakfast. 

Many, many years later my husband decided to get an early start on our annual trek to Fort Myers Beach, Florida, so we left on Christmas Day. That wasn't quite so bad. We had our Christmas Eve with the family. Then we finished packing the car and went to sleep early like we were little kids waiting for Santa. 

Traveling was great. We had I-75 all to ourselves. Of course we did, the sane people were home with their families celebrating Christmas. It was a lonely day with more than a few regrets. But the next afternoon we crossed the Florida/Georgia border and the next day we were on the beach with old friends at the condo. Life was good! Then in February we reversed that and went home to Christmas. To a fully decorated house and 4,000 tiny little outside lights. That was the last time we did that!

So what difference does a day make? A huge difference when it is Christmas and you aren't with friends and family?


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas 11, 12 and 13!!

The next three prompts find me sitting here staring at my laptop. Obviously a Christmas writer's block. It's not that we didn't go to church on Christmas Eve or eat fruitcake or have programs at school. It's just that nothing stands out.

Well, maybe the fruitcake thing! Just recently a local bakery posted on Facebook that they found the their old fruitcake recipe from back in the 1960's. My first thought was "better the recipe than the actual fruitcake!" Every Christmas my parents used to receive fruitcakes. They came in beautiful tins with bows and trimmings. And every year we put them out for the Christmas Eve party hoping that someone would eat them. When it got time to go home we would try to sneak out and leave them behind. Somehow they would be in the trunk when we got home. They last for a long time. Too long! I have heard that some people actually do eat them. Over time though they magically disappear - just in time for the new batch to arrive. I don't allow them in my house!

Back to church. I can remember my mom talking about going to the Lutheran Church on Broadway on Christmas Eve where the service was in German. I vaguely recall going to at least one of those services when I was just a tot. I didn't get it back then because I was too young to understand the value of knowing how your ancestors lived. Today I think it would a very special treat to be able to do that.

As for Christmas at school, the only thing I remember is making those paper chains for the tree. And then there were the snowflakes where you folded the paper and started cutting. Mine never came out right. I'd rather buy my ornaments, thank you very much. 

My kids and grandkids got to shop at school. I always thought that was such a great idea. The kids were always so proud of their purchases and couldn't wait for their parents and grandparents to open their presents.

Well, there you have it. Maybe I was wrong. I guess I didn't have as much of a block as I thought. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Well I guess that the Christmas Crafts post gave away the secret of our family's Christmas Traditions. That would be all those stockings hanging on the mantle. That is probably the biggest tradition.

And then there is the tradition that my oldest granddaughter and I started about 10 years ago. That is the hundreds of lights that cover my shrubs and pine trees out in the yard. *You will happy to know that someone must have found the bad bulb and replaced it. The road and the cul-de-sac are now shining brightly with thousands of Christmas lights.

And lets not forget Tom and Jerry, both the drink and the cousins.

Then there is the cookie recipe. It was my mom's and I don't know if it goes any further back. Every year my son, daughters, and I make those cookies. One year I even made a batch for a friend of mine who was going to a cookie exchange in Florida. I packed them in marshmallows, threw in a few packs of hot chocolate, and sent them on their merry way. I am sure as my grandchildren grow up and move away they will take the recipe with them and, with a dozen kids, that will really spread the recipe around.