Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Moving On…

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. Ours was quite enjoyable, but now it’s time to move on to the next milepost – the new year. 2013 will be here before we know it! The Christmas decorations are still up, and I plan to take them down next week. That certainly will leave the house looking a bit drab, won’t it?

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? We are definitely not party people, so we spend our evening quietly at home with snacks and a movie. And we always watch the ball drop in New York City.

New Year’s Day is quiet as well, and we have the traditional “good luck” meal that we have every year. That menu started when I was growing up, and I remember it being the first food eaten on New Year’s Day. We would go to church, then come home and eat it before going to bed because it had to be the first food eaten in the new year. Now, though, it is just dinner – I don’t think I would want to eat it in the middle of the night!

I cook boneless country ribs in the slow cooker with sauerkraut, adding a chopped apple and a bit of brown sugar for sweetness. Sides include mashed potatoes and blackeye peas, along with cooked apples. The pork and blackeye peas are foods traditionally eaten for good luck in the new year, especially by southerners. By the way, our children always called the blackeye peas “dirt beans”, and would only eat one or two because Mom insisted! :-)
Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? It is so easy to break them then be disappointed in yourself for doing so. I don’t make them, but always have a list of things I want to do in the new year. Several things on last year’s list fell by the wayside due to work, caregiving and other responsibilities. Those items have now been moved to my new list, so I’m hoping to accomplish some of those things this year. Some of my goals apply to this blog and to my other website, as I’m hoping to expand and grow them both. Wish me luck!
Happy New Year, everyone! And as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Christmas Miracle?

World War I had been going on for about 5 months, and it was Christmas Eve, 1914. Shortly after midnight the German soldiers stopped firing their weapons and began singing Christmas carols, much to everyone’s surprise. Soldiers along both fronts joined in the singing. One can only imagine the thoughts that were going through their minds, being so far from home and newly engaged in war. Most of them were basically children, some away from their families at Christmas for the first time.

As dawn broke, many of the German soldiers came out of their trenches and walked toward the Allies, saying “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ languages. Upon realizing that the Germans were unarmed, the Allies emerged from their trenches, greeting and shaking hands with the German soldiers.   Gifts were exchanged – cigarettes and plum puddings – and more carols sung. An impromptu game of soccer is reported to have been played as well.  

Once Christmas Day ended the soldiers returned to their respective sides of “no man’s land” and the fighting continued.   This touching scenario would probably not happen today. The technology and weapons used would not permit such a person-to-person event. But it’s nice to imagine, isn’t it?
On a different note: When re-reading my previous post concerning Christmas decorations, I realized I sounded a bit stuffy and obsessive when describing some decorative attempts. My comments were meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and everyone is certainly entitled to their own ideas and creative work. All in fun!!**************************************************************************
Please be sure to read the new posting on my "Holidays" page. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, as always. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Countdown

While out doing some errands this morning, I noticed some decorations that made me wonder what people were thinking. I’m not a decorating expert or anything, but I pretty much know what looks right and what doesn’t. Here are some of the things I saw:

1) Premade red bows just stuck anywhere – on fence posts, windows, shutters – all without being “attached” to anything like a wreath or greens. They looked as if they’d landed where they were thrown.

2) Poorly placed lights and roping, with very uneven loops or lights just draped all over with no obvious plan. Sets of lights on half the window or gutter – not centered. Guess they just ran out of light string and didn’t try to center it up.

3) The entire Christmas decoration inventory placed all over – snowmen beside the Nativity, Santas by the angels, etc. Obviously, it would have been better to leave some of them boxed up and put the rest in groups, designing scenes with some sort of plan.

Do you agree?

Today’s Christmas Quote:
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” –  Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Christmas Cookie #1 -
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all but flour in large mixing bowl at low speed for 1 minute. Do not overmix. Gradually add flour to mixture at low speed just until a stiff dough forms, about 1 minute.
Roll dough into walnut-size balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Using thumb, make an imprint in center of cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until puffy. Make imprint again immediately after removing from oven. Cool completely.
Fill cookies with your favorite cookie frosting and decorate as desired.
Makes approximately 4-5 dozen.
This recipe is on a piece of paper that was in Pillsbury flour back in the 1960s, and I’ve decided I’d better tape it together before it totally falls apart! It’s a family favorite, and I make them every year.
Be sure to check out my Holidays page for more Christmas fun!
Your comments and suggestions – and recipes – are welcome, as always. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pumpkin Goodness

I hope you’re all having a great week. It’s busy here, and sometimes I wonder if everything will be done by Christmas. It’s hard to believe it’s just 3 weeks from today! As it does every year it will go very quickly, then the new year arrives. But I always tell myself that if something doesn’t get done, it doesn’t need to be done. Right?

Over the weekend we brought in the Halloween pumpkin to cook. Most people will say they aren’t the good kind for cooking – that you need sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins or whatever – but I’ve done this for several years with good success and with lots of pumpkin for recipes. And just throwing the pumpkin away seems so wasteful, especially when there had not been weather problems to affect it outside.

Wash the outer skin of the pumpkin. Cut in half and remove the seeds and as many of the strings as possible, then cut into large chunks. Place in large roasting pan or baking pan and add about 1/2” of water. Cover with lid or with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until a knife goes through the skin easily. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully pour off water. Let the pumpkin cool until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin. Return the pulp to the pan and mash with a potato masher. Remove any excess water from the pulp. Then use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency. I pack it by 2-cup portions in freezer bags. Squeeze out the air and flatten the bags so they lay flat in the freezer.

To use in cooking or baking, thaw in refrigerator and drain in colander. I’ve used this for pies, breads and casseroles.

Today’s Christmas quote:
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas” – Calvin Coolidge
Please check the Holidays page for new information and goodies! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!