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.

Christmas Crafts

I have one Christmas craft. Christmas stockings.

Everyone in the family has a homemade stocking. If you are born into the family, you get your very own stocking once you turn one year old. If you marry into the family you get your stocking after the wedding. If you leave the family, we recycle your stocking after the divorce.

I created the very first stocking for my son from a pattern I found at a local fabric store. After my first daughter was born I decided to make her a stocking so I created the  pattern for that one and that started the tradition that has lasted for over 40 years.

When I remarried I made a stocking for myself and one for my husband. When our daughter was born I made one for her. For a long time we had only five stockings hanging from the mantle. That worked just fine.

Then the grandchildren arrived -- an even dozen and we started running out of room on the mantle.

We made room on the mantle by recycling a few stockings much to our regret. But that is life. Stockings come and stockings go.

This year I am making Willie's stocking. He is the youngest grandchild and I have to admit I am running out of ideas. I will let you know how that turns out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Shopping in Toledo

Back in the 1940's before there were malls, we went to downtown Toledo, Ohio to do our Christmas shopping.

GADS! It was cold and windy. To this day I still remember the wind tunnel that you entered when you left Lamson's and headed for the Spitzer Arcade and LaSalles. There were people rushing here and there all over the streets of downtown Toledo. That was Christmas. And when I think about those days I can still feel that cold wind that blew down the street between Lamson's and LaSalles. You would walk out of Lamson's and the wind would just smack you in the face and whisk you down the street. And then one day the Mall was born. It would never be the same again.

Several malls were built in the area and the Lion Store became the big anchor store. We all shopped there and eventually we all worked there during the holidays. I am not sure how that started but I know it had something to do with a "discount." It was a great place to be at Christmastime. 

We shopped while we worked. We got the discount. If we were lucky and we had a wrapping station in the department, we could be all wrapped and tree-ready by the time we left work. It was a sisterhood. There was a dress code so eventually we all started to dress alike. Other stores in the mall recognized us and gave us another discount. It was fun. It was merry. We all loved going to work every day. And the store had on fantastic Christmas Party for all of the employees. Each year we got a new coffee cup. My collection sits in the kitchen cabinet. On Christmas Eve it ended and we went back to our normal lives.

Then one day the Lion Store closed. Another store took its place but no one went to work there during the holidays. It just wasn't the same. The Lion Store was locally owned; the new store was a national chain. 

I believe if the Lion Store were still alive today, we would all still be working there. Of course we would all be in our 70's and a little bit slower. And they would have to provide chairs for us to sit and rest a bit. We might get a little cranky with each other. But the wonderful spirit of that locally owned store would still be there. 

I think I can speak for everyone of us when I say "We miss you Lion Store."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Movies

The next post is Christmas movies. All I can say is, I am addicted to sappy Christmas movies. I can't wait for them to begin in the fall and in January I hate to see them leave. I am talking about all the ones on tv. I love watching each and every one of them over and over and over.

Of course you all know by now that Charlie Brown's Christmas influenced my choice of Christmas trees.

But on Christmas Eve when the family arrives there are two movies that have become a tradition in my home. Christmas Vacation and Elf.

Cousin Eddie Sweater. Moose Eggnog cups. The Yuppie Neighbors.

Syrup on Spaghetti. The Best Cup of Coffee. "Call me an elf one more time."

But still there is one little movie from years ago when my kids were younger that I still love to watch. Benji's Very Own Christmas Story. It is sweet and it shows Santa as he is all over the world. You can find it on line and it doesn't cost much. I highly recommend that you spend the few dollars it costs to purchase the movie.