Today I made  new header for my blog.   It made me reflect on those who have influenced me who are no longer here.

My Grandma Virtue who was always a kid at heart.   She grew up so very little, in the home of her stern Grandmother.  In spite of that she was not bitter.    She had an infectious laugh, a heartwarming smile and love that enveloped everyone she met…family….friend….stranger.

My father, who I lost this year.  Without him I would not be here.   Though I really only came to know him as an adult, there was not a question that he loved me, unconditionally despite both our faults.

My Aunt Linda, who was half of  my two Aunts side-show of Mutt & Jeff.   They were best friends, who would be trying everything in life.   They crafted, they cooked and shopped together.   They were sisters and friends.  They made me seek friends who could be like a sister.

My step-father, who in spite of his faults, taught his parents that kids in a blended family were to be treated exactly like the ones genetically connected.   He attitude gave me an extra set of Grandparents.  Something I think blended families of today could learn so much from.

My Granny, who was crafty, but also artistic.   She makes me believe I can be too.

My friend Barb, who wasn’t a Butte native either.   She helped me embrace the quirkiness of being transplanted to Butte, and find companionship that you need when you weren’t a native and no amount of time would ever make you one.   There is lots of laughter that goes with being an outsider.

Grandpa Virtue, who was such a gentle soul who touched so many.  He was so giving and willing to share, despite having so little himself.  He taught me we can always manage to share even when we feel we don’t have enough to do so.

My Nanny, Great-Grandma, who lived in California, and was her own woman long before it was acceptable.  She taught me so much about being standing up for yourself.  In spite of being my Granny’s mother, she was much younger at heart. I wish I had more time with her.

My Gomper, Grandfather for the rest of you, who had a voice with a timbre that holds strong in my memories.   It was the voice that delivered sermons.   It was the voice that could carry a tune and sing hymns like none other.   I unfortunately I did not get the gene to  carry a tune.

My Grandma T, who gave me the love of cooking and influenced me to be bold in my cooking.   She was a woman who collected cookbooks and made something new every Sunday night.

My Uncle John, who I watched him love unconditionally.  What a gift to see.

My Grandpa T, who taught me the love of fresh food, and the hate of a garden that gets too big to be fun anymore.   My gardens have always been small I learned my lesson well.

I am sure that there are many others, that have touched me, changed me, made me.  I hope that I continue to grow with the foundation they planted.

Christmas Eve Dinner

When we lived in Minneapolis my husband’s family did not do Christmas Eve.  Nothing – nada – zip.  Everything started Christmas day.   This was a little strange for me as Christmas started the afternoon of  Christmas Even and ran through the next day. So my husband and I  created some new traditions of our own.   I shared what our family did, and my husband shared what he’d like to do.   Our Christmas eve ended very full.  Our new personal holiday traditions included visits, dinner, a little cross country skiing and midnight church.

By the time we took the bus home from work, and made our visits, we were quite frankly a little unsure about dinner,  mostly because we were itching to get some ski time in before church.    We didn’t really want to go home and make dinner, and restaurants were all closed for the holiday.   The solution came to us unexpectedly.  John’s Grandmother was in a nursing home in a suburb that was predominately Jewish.  The local deli’s were open, it was not holiday for them.    This resulted in eating at a Jewish deli for dinner Christmas Eve one year and it quickly became a yearly tradition.

It was always a hopping place that night.   Full of folks some speaking Yiddish.  On the table were fresh pickles in a crock.    The breads were wonderful.   I would have a Reuben on one of the delicious rye breads with a cup of matzo ball soup.   It wasn’t many years before we realized that we should just bring our skis along and we could cross-country ski on a golf course near the deli.

Makiski’s deli  is long since gone, but it was a place of many many meals not just Christmas Eve and fond memories.

I was Possessed by Silly

I was possessed by silly the other day.   I had an impulse moment in K-mart and bought a doggie winter coat.  That was not my silly moment.

Nor was it when I put it on my dog and he looked like he had an over-sized head on a little body.

Harley in his swanky snowflake jacket.

No my silly moment came when I wondered what would happen if I put the snowflake jacket on my cat, who isn’t crazy about me to begin with.   She loves the sun and hates the cold.  A polar fleece coat could be just what she needed from me to win her over.   She quickly fell asleep all toasty and warm.   Unfortunately she still hates me.   I am thinking  my cat feels that I picked the wrong color jacket and it clashed with her calico coat.  I am doomed to be on her bad list for awhile longer.

Taking a cat nap in her new duds.

Christmas Pj’s

 I am not sure where I got the idea that there was such a thing as Christmas pajamas.   Somehow I imagined in households across the country you got a new pair of pj’s on Christmas Eve, to wear and wake up in, when you got up to see what Santa left you.     I have a picture of  my two brothers and me  in matching pajamas that appears to be taken at Christmas.    Maybe this is where that idea was hatched for  me, as I don’t think I got new pj’s each year.

Years later I still hold on to that notion of Christmas pj’s as a necessary part of a child’s Christmas.   Each year we are part of group who an adopt a family at Christmas.  I consider it my mission to find a warm set of pajamas and slippers  for each child.  I enjoy myself finding just the right pair for each child on my list.   I hope that years later even if this was the only year that they got new pj’s at Christmas it provides a warm memory for them.

Wrapping Gifts

I have started wrapping gifts so I can get them in the mail for my family back in the Midwest.    It brought back memories of my Granny Miller who was  a creative gift wrapper.  She had two solid colors of  paper that was almost like lacquer.   This paper  was used for every gift wrapping occasion birthdays, weddings and Christmas.  She did not just wrap and add a bow.   My Granny was  always adding things adding things to the personalize  each gift and make it appropriate for the occasion.  Her gift toppers were like all those special things that they put on your gift when you had it wrapped at a department store.  At Christmas your topper might include pine cones we collected the past summer at the cabin, candy canes, a couple of Christmas balls or artificial poinsettias.  It was a moment of creativity, not just a hurry up wrap the gifts, punk a ribbon on it time for her.    I am trying to enjoy my gift wrapping a little more this year before I squish it all up and put it in a box to ship.  Maybe next year I will take sometime and use ideas on the internet to help me create some packages that would have made Granny proud.

Christmas Cookies

I am not sure why there are cookies that we make only once a year.   I am not sure why we feel compelled to make dozens and dozens of cookies in December and not make a batch a month instead.    Having said that I am one of those who participates in this crazy ritual of Christmas cookies.

Right after Thanksgiving I start hoarding butter that goes on sale in my freezer.  I then pull out my  cookbooks and figure out which ones I want to make and I make a shopping list.  Years ago when I hosted my caroling parties I used to make dozens of varieties.  Each year now it seems like I make fewer and fewer.

One of my favorites to make is a recent find in a 1994 Pillbury Bake-Off book called Fudgy Bonbons.   I highly recommend the  Hershey Hugs or  limited edition candy cane Kisses in these.  I have tried it with cherry cordial Kisses, caramel kisses and many other kinds.   Now that there are so many kinds of Kisses out there it is limitless  what you can do.    I also recommend that you heat them up just a few seconds before you eat them so that the centers are a little soft.  Yummy!

Fudgy Bonbons

1 (12-oz.) pkg. (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 cups all purpose or unbleached flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
60 Kisses or Hugs
2 oz. white chocolate baking bar or vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark)
1 teaspoon shortening or oil
  • Heat oven to 350°F. In medium saucepan, combine chocolate chips and margarine; cook and stir over very low heat until chips are melted and smooth. (Mixture will be stiff.) Add condensed milk; mix well.
  • Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine flour, nuts, chocolate mixture and vanilla; mix well. Shape 1 tablespoon dough (use measuring spoon) around each milk chocolate candy, covering completely. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake at 350°F. for 6 to 8 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cookies will be soft and appear shiny but will become firm as they cool. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool 15 minutes or until completely cooled.
  • Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine baking bar and shortening; cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Let stand until set. Store in tightly covered container.
Yield: 60 cookies.
To give proper credit where it is due, here is the link to Pillsbury with this recipe.

Holes in Our Hearts

I seems the holiday season always reminds of the holes in our hearts left by those who have gone before us.  Those members of our family and friends who made our time her special.

My Aunt Linda and Aunt Nancy were sisters and best friends.   One of the things that the did was make Christmas candy together.   My Aunt Linda is gone now, but my Aunt Nancy still carries on the tradition of making sure that Christmas candy gets made and shared.   Her husband has turned in to her “master candy dipper.”  In spite of his support it isn’t the same.   Sister’s make you laugh in special ways that no one else can.

My Grandma Virtue and her best friend “Aunt” Hermine,  both gone, were a crafty couple of ladies.  Grandma was always thinking of things to make for Christmas and “Aunt” Hermine was her trusty sidekick.  One year they attached clear medicine cups with glitter on the rim to a Styrofoam ball and hung as a Christmas decoration.   Even  now I am not sure what made them think that was festive, but I can see them with their enthusiasm making them.   Another year they made tree decorations using left over flash cubes and jewelry the bought at  rummage sales.   I still have mine left, and it still hangs on my tree.  It sounds a little odd, but it was one of their better ideas.

My friend, Barb, lost her battle to ovarian cancer this spring, and I miss her when working  a design for my Christmas cards this year.   We always crafted with paper together.  Barb loved glitter and I wasn’t so sure ( I think it was those medicine cups).  She had an uncanny ability to know what what odd obscure thing to add to make it just a little better.     Her collection of ephemera was mind-boggling and she could find another used for it when we started brainstorming when working on altered art, cards, and even scrapbooks.

Vince Gill has a song on one of his Christmas albums about his brother who passed away called “It wont be the same this year.”  I really do like it because it a great song that is a tribute to all those who can’t be with us during this holiday season.