Childhood Christmases

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.

A Good Book

Reese Witherspoon has written a wonderful book “Whiskey In A Teacup” about life and recipes from the South – Nashville to be exact.

But it’s not just a cookbook. Although the recipes are truly fantastic. I mean, who can pass up great tips to making Southern favorites like sweet tea, lemonade, pecan pie and fried chicken.

And all the other wonderful tried and true recipes from her family and friends. You can’t beat those special meals handed down from generations ago. They are each a small treasure to be guarded, enjoyed and passed on to the next generation.

Added to the recipes are the touching stories of her childhood years  in Nashville and the impact of her mother and grandmother They are priceless!

After such good training from such strong women, Reese can and does give us all appropriate advice on how to be beautiful and proper on the outside, and fierce and warrior-like on the inside. Hence the name of the book, “Whiskey In A Teacup”.

She shows how Southern friendship and community breeds women with good manners, hospitality and a sense of decor who will fight for the rights of others, see that everyone is fed and will never lose an argument.

Included is a list of Southern Expressions and a Southern Pronunciation Key so we can all understand each other. Although since I’m from Texas, I didn’t have any problem “talking’ Southern”. My favorite, of course, is “Well Bless Your Heart!” which, as Reese points out, has many meanings. The tone of the voice will tell you which version is meant.

A good portion of the book is devoted to how Southern women deal with entertaining especially during all the holidays. Of course, a Southern woman will tend to overdo everything, so Reese’s best advice is to try to simply as best you can. Good luck with that!

I really loved reading this book .It is charming. It is sweet. It is comforting. It is like a big hug from a friend. In fact, some people I know will be getting this book as a birthday or Christmas gift.

Shh – don’t tell them!

 

Vacationing With Thirteen Year Olds, Part 2

Hello everyone! Welcome back! Let me continue my story of the great vacation with the grandsons. Let me see, now where were we? I think Day 6 – yes.

It started with a two-hour boat ride on the Wisconsin river. Two stops for refreshments and a look at some great rock formations. The boys got wonderful pictures and may have learned something about Geology.

The afternoon was spent at another water park. Yessirree – four hours of sun and water, AGAIN!!!! By now I was practically glowing in the the dark!

While driving into the parking lot and going over a speed bump, we heard a strange noise from the truck but, seeing nothing, we parked. Walking to the entrance, we came upon a tire next to a speed bump in the parking lot. Gramps and I looked at each other. This couldn’t be our tire, could it? Gramps went back to the truck and sure enough, our spare had fallen out. What were the chances?!! So we loaded it back in the truck, shaking our heads at the unbelievability of the whole thing.

This being the 4th of July, we later joined the residents downtown for a spectacular fireworks show. Nothing beats fireworks, patriotic music, red/white/blue colors and the national anthem surrounded by families of every color and nationality under the sun. Another great day!

Day 7 was a really slow starter – I think we all slept until 11 am. Being a tourist is hard work! By early afternoon, Gramps and the boys were off for some golf lessons. They planned a round of golf, but all three decided it was too hot. So back in the pool they went. It seems boys and water are a natural combination. Just add suits.

That evening we had a campfire at the RV site and roasted huge marshmallows. The boys looked up a list of the 100 best jokes, and told us one joke after another until I thought I would die from laughing – mostly fourth-grade jokes but still pretty funny.

My favorite? OK here it is. The Lord said to John, “Come forth and I will give you everlasting life.” John came fifth and got a toaster.” I know! I’m still laughing!!

That night was the best ever. We talked, we laughed, we interacted, we got to know each other better, we looked at Jupiter’s moons through the binoculars. How perfect! We kept the fire going as long as possible because we didn’t want the night to end. I wish all nights could be as wonderful as that one was.

Ready for another absolutely miraculous coincidence? The next morning Gramps was getting a new tire put on the truck to prevent another flat. A piece was missing from the spare tire carrier that had fallen off in the parking lot two days earlier. So he drove to the parking lot and there, on top of the now infamous speed bump, was a little washer. Just the right size washer, mind you, that fit the holder for the spare. Really?!! No kidding!! He found it days later in the parking lot of a water park in a resort town on a holiday weekend! One single 1″ round washer!!!!!

Now I need to tell you that throughout the week it rained – everyday. But sometimes it rained at night or early in the morning or if it rained during the day, it only rained for about 5-10 minutes. The timing was unbelievable. It never interfered with our fun or ruined any activity. Uncanny really.

Day 8 was devoted to a Drum Corps performance in Whitewater, about two hours away. We met some friends there and had a tailgate dinner with one of the Corps. Both of the boys play musical instruments – one the sax, the other tuba and drums- so we knew they would enjoy the musical extravaganza of Drum Corps. Well, it was perfect weather and a great show. Shawn, who had never seen a Drum Corps performance before, was enthralled. He sat on the edge of his seat all evening.

The next morning we all got up early for the long trip to Kansas City to put Shawn on the plane back home. Thanks to modern technology, the boys again entertained themselves in the truck for hours.

We also reminisced about our days in Wisconsin, the fun things we did and some of our favorite jokes from campfire night. Sometimes the best part of a trip is the memory of it.

Shawn got on the plane for his second time in the air. He was evidently a “pro” by then, of course. How funny to see a thirteen-year-old who thinks he knows everything about a subject, but still needs help.

Mac and Gramps and I got home the next night with no problems.

Were we alive? Barely! Were we exhausted? Completely! Were we still laughing and telling grand stories? You bet! Was it the best vacation ever? Absolutely! Would I do it again with two thirteen-year-olds? In a heart beat!

Dresses For Christmas

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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

A Homemade Holiday

Think it’s not worth the trouble? Making things for the holidays or anytime, for that matter? Think no one will really appreciate your effort? Think it is all a waste? Think again, my Sweetie!

I believe the biggest and best gift you can give anyone is your time. It is precious, unique and will never come again. Any time you are thinking about someone, doing for someone or sharing with someone, it is a gift to be treasured and held in the highest regard.

So spending the time making a gift or fashioning a decoration or baking food or brightening up the yard is a gift of your time and thought. Do I believe you should do EVERYTHING – NO!!!!  That’s a killer and a misuse of your time. But adding your personal touch to each day and especially each holiday is very doable.

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And the memories it makes! Oh Boy! I have the best memories of my mother baking for every occasion. Pies! Cookies! Candy! Cakes! Everyone enjoyed her handiwork. Everyone was blessed by her efforts. And she loved doing it.

That’s the double blessing of homemade. The maker is as happy making the gift as the receiver is getting the gift.

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I love spending time on a project for one person. The whole while I’m thinking about them. How they will look when I give them the gift. How they will enjoy it. How it will benefit our relationship. On and on I think, until the project is done.

Then I get to really see their face when I give it to them and watch them enjoy it and feel our relationship deepen. What could be better than that?

I remember when we had young children, we decided to each have small blank books one Christmas. In each person’s book we would write down the gifts of our time we were giving that person. I had things like: “I  will make your bed” from my daughter, I will give you a back rub” from my son and “I will bring you breakfast in bed” from my husband.

There were many others that year and  in the years to follow. How fun it was to cash in the certificates during the year. Those gifts were extra special in so many ways.

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Putting forth effort for those you love is never a waste. It is love in the purest sense, it is a teaching moment and a good example for all those watching you. It couldn’t be more important.

So put your personal touch on every holiday. Whatever that means – making presents, making decorations, fashioning yard art, baking, cooking. It could be as simple as wrapping a gift or tying a bow or as interesting as smocking a Christmas dress. Whatever shows your talent and care.

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Show your love. Give of your time. Make you holiday homemade.

 

 

Spring Is At The Door

Spring has come early in our part of Texas. That usually means a hot summer with lots of bugs. Yuck!  Truthfully, you can have spring anytime you want, in your mind and in your heart. So I have decided to have spring. Lots of blooming flowers, mild weather, sunshine, no gusty winds and sweet smelling blossoms. That is spring in my mind and so it shall be! No matter that is raining with wind gusts up to 35mph.

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I have a bit of beautiful spring on my front door just to get me in the mood for fresh beginnings and new life. It is made from a hanging basket and faux flowers and greens. I think it looks grand!

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Starting a season when you feel like it is a great thing to do. Get yourself in the mood for whatever is on the horizon. Be of good cheer! Feel renewed and refreshed when it suits you.

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So spring is on my door and in my heart. I’m ready for flower blossoms everywhere. I’m ready for new life to burst forth in my life as well as my yard. I’m ready for freshness, beauty and color in my world. I’m ready for the future!

Sometimes Christmas Comes After Christmas

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!