Friday, December 29, 2006

Holiday Highlights 2006

I wrote several posts about Christmas memories, so thought I would write now about things I think I will remember about this Christmas.
Of course, if I don't remember by next year, I can always come back and read this post.

Spending several days at Jeana's house, with all our kids and grandkids.

Playing Senior Moments, a gift from Jeana and family, which requires short term memory. Of which I seem to have not much.

Listening to a Christmas story read aloud, and watching the children's faces, softly lit by the Advent candles and the tree lights.

Making cornbread dressing with my daddy's mama's recipe.

Going shopping with my girls and their girls.

Buying my grandbabies yarn and crochet hooks, because they want to learn to crochet.

Watching Katoushka and Lolly sing and dance "Sisters" (from White Christmas, one of my favorite holiday movies).

Listening as Sunshine played "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on the piano.

And Big D and A-man playing "The Little Drummer Boy" as a duet on their violins.

Seeing Pie show Buddy how to crochet--she's left-handed, so teaching her is a challenge for me, but Buddy is ambidextrous, so I'm curious to see with which hand he crochets.

Devan and the other boys zooming down the zip line from the tree house, screaming with delight.

Holding hands in a family circle, praying before meals.

Having my mother and her friend join us, even if only for a few hours.

My husband singing Christmas carols softly, holding my hand, and watching the barely controlled chaos that is our family Christmas.

Spending our last Christmas Eve at my mother's house. What a bittersweet moment, knowing that this house will be sold, the house where she has lived for 40 years, the house my late daddy built. Reminding myself that she is moving on to a new and happy stage of her life, with a man we all love and respect. Realizing that with more than 50 members, we have just outgrown Christmas at anyone's house, and knowing that it won't be the same at another place, but reveling in the fact that we still want to get together, and will find another place.

Rejoicing that our two soldiers
both returned from war this year, safe and healthy.

Realizing that, as usual, I made some mistakes on the family calender, and making notes to myself to correct them next year.

Remembering past Christmases, with those who have gone home before us, and with whom we will be reunited one day.

Watching a video of our family Christmas from 25 years ago.

My parents had four kids. We are all still with our spouses, and among us produced 12 children, who in turn have married and had children--16 and counting, with another due in the spring. Our oldest grandchild will be 15 in the spring, so we are a few years from expecting great grandchildren, but oh how quickly the years go by, and how soon all our grandbabies will no longer be babes, but adults, with families and lives of their own. I pray that we will continue to share each other's lives, and to make new memories to add to those of Christmases past.

Merry Christmas, and the happiest of New Years.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Folger's Vanilla Biscotti

An empty package of Folger's Vanilla Biscotti has been on my kitchen cabinet for quite some time. I saved it to remind me that I needed to write a product review, but I kept putting it off, mostly because when I saw it was when I was working in the kitchen, and not when I was at the computer.
Folger's e-mailed me months ago and asked if I would be willing to write a product review, in exchange for receiving a free sample. I said, why sure, because I love free stuff.
So they sent it
And I drank it.
And it was good.
In fact, it was very good.
I have only been a coffee drinker for a few years. In fact, since I started low carbing. Cutting back on sugar had the strange side effect of enabling me to appreciate the flavor of coffee.
I always loved the aroma. I often said that if coffee tasted the way it smells, I would love it.
But of course it didn't.
Until now.
Folger's vanilla biscotti tastes exactly the way it smells.
A lovely rich vanilla flavor.
I drank it every day for a week, and didn't get tired of it.
I would still be drinking it, if not for the price. At forty-five cents an ounce, it's just more than I am willing to spend for my daily caffeine fix.
But for special occasions, yes indeedy. Yummy.
And by the way, if you folks at Folger's have anything else you would like to send me a free sample of, I will be happy to write any number of product reviews.
Of course, I can't guarantee that they will all be as good as this one.
At least, not unless you are going to send packets of cash in plain brown wrappers.
In that case, we can talk.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Decorating for Christmas

Jeana's posts about Christmas got me to thinking about Christmas trees and decorating for Christmas. The trees I grew up with were real trees. My daddy nailed crossed pieces of wood to the bottom to make them stand up. We decorated with tinsel, glass balls, tons of icecicles, and lots of angel hair, which always made me itch but I loved adding it to the tree. The angel on top floated in a cloud of feathers and angel hair, and it was my favorite decoration.
The tree skirt was a layer of cotton wool sprinkled with glitter. Nearby, a block of styrofoam was the foundation for a tiny sleigh and reindeer, sliding along among a forest of miniature trees.

When Wick and I married, we started with a small tree, two boxes of blue glass balls, and blue and gold tinsel. It was the color coordinated tree pictured in store windows, and to frame it we outlined the front window of our apartment in blue lights. But somehow the tree looked sort of sad to me--sort of sterile and impersonal.

As the years passed, we added decorations we received as gifts, or found on clearance, and then came the decorations our children made. We also started the tradition of giving each child an ornament, so that when our kids married, they would have the beginnings of their own Christmas traditions.

One year I made an Advent calendar for the kids. I didn't have a pattern; I just started cutting out shapes from felt and gluing them together. I put a green tree shape on a piece of red for the background. The calendar part was outlined in gold rickrack. For each day from December first to December 25, there was a different ornament made of felt, gold paint, and glue for the tree: candy canes, fancy globes, a toy soldier, a teddy bear, a gold star, an angel. Each day we moved one ornament from the calendar at the bottom to the tree, and counted the days left until Christmas.

There were always Nativity figures, as ornaments on the tree, or sitting on a table, and always the one with the wooden stable and all the animals gathered around the manger containing the baby Jesus under the tree.

Another year I made stockings with bears on them, and a matching tree skirt. Jeana made a lap quilt from matching fabric, for my mother, and we made fabric ornaments for the tree.

One year we spent hours painting wooden cutout ornaments for the tree. I still have a few of those.

Once our kids were grown and married, I started making new stockings. For the girls, angels in crimson robes with gold sashes. For the boys, angels in red shirts and denim pants. Each one has a gold felt star with the appropriate name on it. I still fill each stocking, no matter where we have our family Christmas, with miniature candy bars, nuts, tiny toys, socks, and a small stocking gift.

When our kids were small and our pockets empty, we made most of our gifts. One year we saved pretty glass bottles and jars, soaked off the labels, spray painted the lids gold, and added some decals for decoration. I bought a big box of Epsom salts. We added a little food coloring, some perfume, stirred well, and poured the bath salts into the bottles and jars as gifts for Nanaw, Grandma, and all the aunts.

As our family grew, I started making a family calendar every year. Everyone's birthday, all the anniversaries, each new baby, the special days of our lives, laid out on the new year's calendar. One for each family unit. All year long, as I check my calendar for appointments, I also see the dates for each family member. I stop to say a prayer, try to remember to send a card, shop for a gift, or make a phone call. The family calendar keeps them always before me, always on my mind and in my heart and in my prayers.

After all, the tree, the decorations, the gifts, it's all about family. The family we came from, the family we created together, the family that has grown each year, the love we have for each other, and the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Merry Christmas. May God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Chirstmas Memory

When I was little, we lived with my grandmother (mama's mother).
On Christmas Eve, my aunts and uncles and cousins came to spend the
We made pallets on the floor with piles of quilts, and at least
one year I remember sleeping at the foot of the bed, between the
grownups' feet and the wooden footboard.
Somehow during the night, rolled in layers of quilts, I slid down between the footboard and the mattress, and when I woke up, I couldn't figure out where I was, or how to get out of
the tangle of quilts.

Our house had gas heaters, and I remember Granny B warning us
little girls to be careful standing in front of the heaters in our long
flannel nightgowns, fearing that we would catch on fire.

The warm air would lift our gown tails into the air, like hot air balloons.

On Christmas Eve, we had to wait for Granny B to get home from
work before we could officially start Christmas. She worked at
Skillern's Drugstore, and often didn't get home until 10:30 or later, with
stories of men coming in just before the store closed, to buy a box of
candy for their wives or mamas, or a pipe and tobacco for their daddies.

On Christmas Eve, we opened gifts from each other, but the
presents Santa brought didn't arrive until every last child was in bed
asleep. I always tried to stay awake to hear the sleigh bells, which Uncle
Grady solemnly told us he heard every year when Santa landed on the

One year, Christmas Day came on Sunday, and of course we couldn't miss church, so Santa Claus came early that year. Late Christmas Eve night, my daddy and my uncle Jim took all of us kids to buy fireworks,
and when we got back, Santa had come!

My daddy said he started with our house that year, and that is why he came early.

With so many relatives, and so many children, the floor under
the tree was filled to overflowing with presents on Christmas morning.
Each of us had a stocking, with a whole orange or tangerine that we
didn't have to share, a whole shiny red apple, nuts in the shell, hard
candy, and some kind of toy.
One year we all got paddle balls--paddles with red rubber balls attached by rubber strings. We spent hours trying to hit the balls with the paddles. When the ball came off the string, Daddy or
Aunt Ruth would fix it by pushing a piece of matchstick into the ball
to hold the rubber string in place.

When the elastic wore out, our mamas and daddies collected the paddles so we would stop hitting each other with them, and next time somebody needed a spanking, they would use
the wooden paddle.

More than once, one of us nearly swallowed one of the
little red balls, that were just the right size to go down a little
kid's throat.

My aunt Clorine made the best divinity in the whole world,
sweet, rich, creamy,
melting on my tongue like snow flakes.
Aunt Ruth's fudge was
straight out of dreams of sugar plums.
Fruitcake, studded with sweet
pecans and jewels of candied fruit,
mama's chocolate cake with hard icing,
Granny B's chocolate and lemon merengue pies--
I can still taste them in my dreams.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Christmas Memory

This time of year I often fall asleep remembering Christmases past. The earliest Christmas memories I have are from when I was about three.
I remember the ceramic mug a friend of my mother's from church made me, a three-dimensional impression of Santa's face, with a gentle smile. I remember the smell of the Christmas tree, and the crackle of wrapping paper as Mama wrapped mysterious boxes. I remember my grandmother warning me not to go into her closet, telling me that if I did, a spider would get me. I remember riding on Daddy's shoulders through the Sears Roebuck store, to look at the biggest model train set in the world (I don't know if it really was, but that is how I remember it). I remember the tricycle Daddy had to adapt; I was too small for it, and couldn't reach the pedals if I was sitting on the seat. So he screwed blocks of wood to the pedals so that I could push them. It was thrilling, riding around the dining table, leaning forward to see over the handlebars! I remember that I got a little doctor's kit, complete with "medicine" bottles, filled with the little colored sprinkles we normally use to decorate cakes. I promptly spilled some on the hardwood floor in the dining room, and then rode my tricycle through them, grinding the sprinkles into the tire treads, where they stayed forever. I remember the sparkly icecicles, the gold and silver tinsel, the bright lights on the tree.
Most of all I remember the Nativity scene under the tree, and how Mama and Daddy crouched on the floor, holding my hands and letting me gently touch each figure as they told me the story of the baby Jesus' birth.
I love Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Regularly scheduled blogging will return soon

Wick and I went to Branson, MO, the weekend before Thanksgiving. We brought back a major case of food poisoning. Thanksgiving was not even a blip on the radar screen, as we took turns hanging our heads over the porcelain altar (aka the toilet). We missed Thanksgiving at my mother's, with over 50 people, all of whom are her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, for the first time in 37 years. We missed the four-day weekend at Jeana's with our kids and grandkids. We missed Black Friday shopping (which we would have experienced only vicariously, through Scott and Scott relaying their experiences camping out on the Best Buy parking lot). I even missed two days of work on the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Where we got the staphyloccocal infection remains a mystery.

It was, however, the "gift that keeps on giving"---headaches, joint pain, etc. etc. etc. and no I am not going into the details.

Suffice it to say that even now, my mother's cornbread dressing, complete with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce, which she carefully dished up and froze for me since we missed the festivities, still has not been claimed from her freezer.

For now, I am sticking with chicken noodle soup, jello, bananas, and Propel flavored water.