My mother loved to cook. That is to say, she loved to bake. Everyday meals were not her forte, but desserts and special occasions were her real love.
She had a real sweet tooth (which I inherited!), and so we had a dessert at every meal. Yes, even breakfast had something sweet and yummy.
Mother was well known for her homemade pies, especially apple. The crust was always crispy and golden. Daddy loved her apple pie with a slice of cheese on it. I think he learned that growing up in South Dakota.
Christmas was a big baking time. She would start in September, making cookies, candies, bars and pies. Everyone would get something – the mailman to the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to all the neighbors.
There was always something in the cookie jar and more stacked in the freezer, waiting for the right occasion. Mother never went to visit anyone empty-handed. That was her rule, “Never go out with a bare face or an empty hand.”
The one item that brings back the most memories of my childhood is Mother’s chocolate chip cookies. Just the aroma of the cookies baking makes me feel like a girl in her kitchen, helping her bake. I suddenly feel all warm and safe with a smile on my face, eager to see how the cookies turn out.
Then there is the joy of tasting the first warm cookie from the oven. That was always “cook’s treat” at Mother’s house.
My daughter feels the same about my chocolate chip cookies. When she takes a bite now, she closes her eyes and sighs, “Ah, my childhood in a cookie!”
Her son, Mac, says my chocolate chip cookies are the best. Little does he know he’s talking about Mother’s recipe, passed down through all these years.
And I bet his children and their children will say the same.
Peggy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
- 1 C packed brown sugar
- 1 C Crisco
- 1 C white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 t soda
- 1 t salt
- 2 T water
- 12 oz. semisweet chips
Cream sugars and Crisco. Add eggs. Sift salt and soda with flour. Add to creamed mixture. Add water. Add chips by hand. Drop onto cookie sheet by spoonful . Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on rack.
When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.
It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.
The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.
Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.
I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.
But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.
Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.
We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.
No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.
Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.
We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.
Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.
I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.
Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree
Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!
I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.
My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.
My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.
It happened on a Monday. It could have just as easily happened on a Tuesday or a Thursday, but yes, it was a Monday.
It happened at 6:30 pm to be specific. Again it could have been anytime but I remember it well and it was definitely 6:30 pm on a Monday.
What am I talking about? Mac’s first band concert, of course.
It seems Mac has decided to play the tuba this year – 6th grade. (Can you believe it? Wasn’t he in kindergarten just last year?)
There were tryouts at the beginning of the year on many different instruments. Mac blew into the tuba mouthpiece and the director announced he was “a natural”. My interpretation– “We are short of tuba players and you look pretty good.”
Anyway, Mac now believes he was born to play tuba, which is a good thing. He is in the beginning band, a very good thing. And they had their first concert last Monday night . . . . . at 6:30 pm, a very, very good thing.
The evening started out with Gramps and me arriving at the school and coming in to the auditorium through the back door. All the kids were nicely seated in the audience section and no parents were anywhere to be seen. Suddenly Mac stood up and said to us, “You can’t be here!” What ever happened to “Hello Granny”?
We smiled and waved to him. “Hi, Mac.” Again, “You can’t be here!” He’s very big on rules and regulations lately.
“OK” we said. “We’re leaving. Where are we supposed to be?”
Mac. “Out in the hall! You can’t be here!”
I’m not sure to this day what we were not supposed to see but obligingly we went to the hallway and there were all the other families waiting patiently.
Finally we were allowed back into the auditorium and all the kids were by then on stage in their performance seats. Of course, we could not see Mac. He was one of the four tubas in the back row.
The concert was great with lots of Christmas music. All the instruments were featured throughout the evening including the four tubas in the back row.
The time passed too quickly and before we knew it we were hugging Mac back out in the hall. “Congratulations” and “Good Job” were heard from everyone. Mac was beaming.
How special for him to have both parents and both sets of grandparents hugging him and telling him how great he did. Even his great uncle, a musician, made an appearance and was very impressed.
Nothing feels better than family hugs. Nothing sounds better than family applause. Nothing feels better than family support. Even if it just happened to be a first time ever band concert on a Monday night at 6:30 pm.
What could be better than a new dress for Christmas? Say a dress made of white Batiste with cranberry trim and maybe some smocking? Maybe it would have a beautiful little green ribbon running through the threads of the smocking and maybe the tie would be cranberry too?
Would that dress be the prettiest thing you ever saw? Would a granddaughter of eight years old think it was the best dress ever made for her?
Would Christmas be just that much better wearing a new dress made just for you? Would you feel like a princess in a crisp white dress ironed just so and stitched with all the love possible?
Would the pictures taken of a dark haired girl in the new white dress be all the more precious because her grandmother made the dress just for her? Would the dark haired girl feel the same because she knew the dress was meant for no one else but her?
What could be better than a new dress for Christmas? How about two new dresses for Christmas? How about a dark haired granddaughter and a fair haired great-granddaughter in matching dresses? How about Christmas memories that will last a lifetime for two?
Is that not that the best picture for Christmas? Two precious girls, in two precious dresses, at the same time? Am I the luckiest Granny ever?
Sometimes Christmas doesn’t happen on Christmas Day. Sometimes people are working. Sometimes family members can’t get together on a particular day. Sometimes Christmas comes after Christmas.
That’s the way it was in our house this year. Our Christmas came on December 27th. Two days after the official day, our family got together for a Christmas pancake brunch and gift exchange.
Of course, all the decorations were still up, because this was our Christmas. The miniature Snowflake Village was in place with all the required snow and Victorian buildings. There is even a pond with skaters!
The collection of Santas lined the short wall between the dining room and living room. My favorite is the small white felt Santa who holds his own among all the giants.
The fireplace mantel is a tribute to my mother, who was a supreme baker, especially at Christmastime. Anything having to do with candy and sweets can be found there.
The card holder is a set of shutters I painted and stenciled specifically for its Christmas charm. I love it standing so tall next the fireplace.
We don’t have much room for a Christmas tree, but the tall narrow tree seems to fit pretty well. We have many decorations collected over more than forty-five years. It is very nostalgic to handle each one while decorating the tree. We are tinsel people and always have been. I know it’s going out of fashion, but I love it.
The table is all set and ready for everyone to arrive. An hour or so later it was full of family, pancakes, eggs, bacon, biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Everyone had their fill before emptying the tree of all its gifts.
Outside it was rainy, windy and cold. Inside it was warm with a fire, bright with all the lights, happy with everyone talking and laughing.
Outside it was unpleasant. Inside it was family.
Outside it was miserable. Inside it was Christmas!
Every October my quilting group has a retreat. We go to a special place, at a special time, for a special activity. Each time the retreat seems to take on a life of its own. This year, it seemed to have an aura of beginnings, of starts, of onsets. Sometimes people are finishing quilts or projects, binding, sewing on labels or putting on the finishing touches, but this time brought out new squares, not-seen-before projects, uncut fabrics and patterns to try out. It was all very exciting and challenging. New projects, new quilts, new ideas. What fun!
All of these projects were so inspirational. Each one made me want to break out new fabric, new patterns, new thread, and to start new quilts. The problem with all new beginnings is that they have to be finished eventually!
What to do with all those lovely Christmas cards! Too pretty to toss, too meaningful not to keep and too cumbersome to just collect over the years. I have a solution that I have used for many years. I make gift tags from the cards. It is easy and very eco-friendly . . . as in recycling.
This year I made more than 180 tags from about 45 cards (that’s two years worth). Any cards can be used . . . Birthday, Easter, Thank You, etc.I have a set of templates that I use, but you can use any shape you like, such as cookie cutters, or coloring book pages. I just like these because they look like luggage tags and don’t have any curves to cut.
Here are more samples of tags from my Christmas cards. They are all ready for next year’s packages and gifts. What could be more personal and say Merry Christmas better than this?
Gramps and I are on the road, headed for Arizona to visit our niece,her husband and our “spiritual” grandchildren x 6. Our rental car is packed to the roof with Christmas gifts for young and old. Yes, I know Christmas was 6 days ago, but what’s a day? Or two? Or more?
We have never had Christmas with this special family since we became honorary Dad/Mom and Gramps/Granny. They weren’t able to come to our house for the holiday, so . . . . logic says we take Christmas to them. Even though we had Christmas with the other children and grandchildren on the designated, accepted day, we still wanted to take Christmas to Arizona.
So here we are on December 31 celebrating Christmas away from home with our “new” daughter, son-in-law and 5 of the 6 “new” grandkids. And you know what? It feels exactly like Christmas did last week!
What is Christmas after all? It’s just a day. If you can’t enjoy the actual day, pick another. It will work just as well. Or do as we have done . . . . rejoice 2 or 3 times over. How fun is that?
I have a very special memory from my childhood of the year we had 2 Christmases. According to my parents, Santa had forgotten to stop at our house and was coming back to deliver our gifts. The 3 of us children bought this story completely and were excited beyond belief that Santa would do such a thing for us. We were treated like royalty at school! No one else had ever gotten such special treatment from Santa. All the kids thought we 3 had an inside link to the bearded man! It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out why this all happened . . . . my parents couldn’t afford Christmas and had to wait for the after-Christmas sales to get our gifts. Can you imagine how hard this was for them and yet they were able to make it into one of the best memories for us. That was the true gift we all got that year and none of us have ever forgotten. We “kids”, all in our 60’s, still talk about the year we had 2 Christmases as one of the best ever.
A true Christmas can happen any day, any where, with or without wrapped presents. The love, the sharing, the giving cannot be put in a box with a bow. Although I’m not discounting the thrill of opening a present, big or little, given with thought and creativity.
This “2nd” Christmas has everything the first one had last week . . . . family, laughter, surprises, thank yous, piles of wrapping paper,lost little plastic men, good food, shared music, rowdy boys, exhausted adults. The only things different are one squealing, giggly little girl (the only granddaughter) and the neighbors here are watching reruns and eating mac and cheese. I think we are definitely having more fun! Maybe every year should have 2 Christmases!
Gramps and I have been recollecting the holiday events, remembering the jokes, rehashing the conversations, reminiscing the family gatherings and generally reliving the last 4-5 days. It makes them seem to last far longer. And really, aren’t the memories what it’s all about anyway?
Santa was so good to us this year. We got more than we deserved . . . because if we got what we deserved, it would probably always be more coal that candy.
First, Granny received a new toaster oven from Gramps. Our old toaster (a wedding gift, making it 43 . . .yes, 43 years old!) finally died. Thank you, Sweetie!
Next, Christmas day brought lots of hugs and kisses from little boys. Love those!. Also many laughs, giggles plus yells, screams, hiyahs, booms, bangs, yahoos, yipees, and wahoos. Did I mention 2 6yos and a 3yo for a whole day!
The tree was overflowing with presents for young and old but mostly for young. The oldsters had more fun watching the youngsters play with their toys than playing with their own. As it should be!
The house looked great (see previous blog) and smelled pretty good too. A turkey was baking in the oven, pies cooling on the counter and gravy simmering on the stove. The table set and all were in their places at Granny’s big dining table. The meal was a success in every sense. We all ate, laughed, shared and ate some more. Whew! I’m still stuffed!
When all was said and done, it was a perfect day! No, not that kind of perfect . . . . we did make a mess, a glass of milk was spilled at the table, several children cried periodically, discipline was administered, statements were misunderstood, an ornament was broken and Granny was absolutely exhausted. But the Spirit of Christmas was among us and all our wishes came true.
We were together with the ones we love. We enjoyed good music, good food, good humor, good hospitality. We exchanged thoughtful and creative gifts. We shared good times, good thoughts, good wishes. AND THERE WAS PEACE THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE. AMEN.
Love to all of you, my Sweeties, from a happy, fat, exhausted Granny!