Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Dear Readers,

We had a grand time visiting with family in Raleigh at Christmas.  Since the granddaughters have arrived, we are creating some Christmas traditions most of which center around food and familly meals.

This is the third Christmas that Seth, our son-in-law, prepared posole and tamales.  The entire clan helped to fill and wrap the tamales under the watchful eyes of Seth.  Our granddaughter enjoyed the traditional reading of her favorite book, entited “Too Many Tamales”.  She helped Uncle Seth mix the masa for the outside of the tamales, delighted that sticky fingers in the dough was part of the process.  Seth spent hours cooking chicken, pork and even pig’s feet for the dinner.  Different mole sauces were concocted, cilantro and radishes were chopped and pumpkin seeds were toasted and ground.  Needless to say, quite a few dishes and utensils needed to be washed and dried during the cooking marathon.

Mimi hosted the Christmas Eve dinner which consisted of brown sugar ham, mac and cheese, green beans and homemade applesauce.  Finally on Christmas Day our son, Andrew, baked the holiday turkey along with PopPop Gibson’s stuffing and broccoli casserole.  The kitchen was a beehive of activity all day.

Quite a bit of energy was exerted for all three of these meals.  But I witnessed something very heartwarming during the holidays.  Anytime the cook needed a break, some member of the family came into the kitchen and lent a hand.  There were always a couple of people washing and drying dishes before the meal, while someone else set the table.  We took turns watching the little ones while the final touches were made to the food.  The scraping of dishes and the loading of the dishwasher were performed by someone who wasn’t in the kitchen earlier.

In other words, we worked in teams helping each other out when fatigue set in.  Then I realized that is just what families do.  They lift each other up and take up the slack when a member is tired.  This help is extended not only during the holidays but throughout life.  It is a comforting feeling to be a member of a family and know that the love, support and encouragment of the members is truly a blessing from God!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

There was one Christmas we were not certain there would be enough money to buy any presents.

My Dad worked at American Standard Plumbing Co. as a brass assembler and he was a member of the union called the American Association of Machinists.  During the summer the union contract expired and negotiations fell apart over an increase of wages.  Neither union nor management would compromise, so a strike was declared.

Dad had been through previous strikes and they usually ended in four to six weeks.  But this time it was different.  Both sides were dug in and no compromise was in sight.  The work stoppage continued from August through Thanksgiving with no hope of returning to work.  Dad received strike benefits of about $30 a week but that was not near enough to cover all our expenses.  Dad found some work painting houses but he was eager to go back to his factory job.  Luckily, Mom had a “rainy day” fund but even that was steadily dwindling as Christmas approached.  Money was so tight that Mom was seriously considering brushing up on her typing skills and applying for a job at the hospital where my older sister worked.

Thankfully around the first of December the strike ended.  But there wasn’t much money left for lots of Christmas presents.  Christmas was a little leaner than other years.  But we had each other and we realized Christmas wasn’t about receiving things but being around the people you loved.  Our family thanked God at Christmas Mass that Dad had returned to work and that we had each other!

Have a very Merry Christmas and remember to

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I was probably 12 years old and all I wanted for Christmas that year was Nancy Drew mystery books.  Nancy Drew was my hero!  She was 18 years old, beautiful, and a fearless amateur detective who drove a convertible sports car.  She embodied everything I wanted to be and do.

My sister and I received about four books for Christmas, including “The Scarlet Slipper Mystery” and “The Secret of the Old Clock”.  Our best friend, Darlene, also received a couple of Nancy Drew books.  The three of us spent the entire holiday week reading about our hero.  As soon as we finished one book, we would trade around and read another one.

Our reading area was our “front room” where the Christmas tree was displayed.  The “front room” was the room facing the street and it was a special room that was only used for celebrating Christmas.  It contained all the fancy furniture my Mom inherited from her parents.  There was a lovely velvet black with maroon trim Victorian sofa with two matching chairs, one of which was a wingback chair.  A stately china cabinet filled with dolls on display anchored one corner of the room.  There was an oil painting of two ladies in long dresses and matching bonnets enjoying a cup of tea, centered above the mantel.  Dad had a clock encased in a glass dome resting on the mantel above the fireplace.  Three gold balls rotated round and round at the base of the clock to show the passing seconds.  The clock was so delicate and graceful.  No wonder this room was off-limits most of the year.  Mom wanted to keep the area as a showplace.

So you can imagine how thrilling it was to read about Nancy Drew, lounging on the special sofa in the glow of the Christmas tree.  Mom determined that we were old enough to be allowed to drink ginger-ale garnished with a red maraschino cherry from an elegant glass.  We pretended this drink was a real cocktail.  We wanted to be as sophisticated as Nancy Drew.  True, we had no exciting mysteries to solve nor a convertible to drive, but it was still a Christmas worth remembering, even after all these years.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

After experiencing 65 Christmases, quite a few pleasing memories linger in the back of my mind.  Permit me to dust off a few of these recollections and share them with you.

“Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” is a church hymn sung during Advent (four weeks of preparation before Christmas).  Singing this song reminds me of a holiday cantata I sang in as a freshman at Ursuline Academy in Louisville, Ky.  Every Christmas this pageant featuring the entire student body was produced and presented as a fund raiser for the school.

The first song of the show in 1959 was “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”.  The entire freshman class was chosen to sing all six verses of this hymn by heart.  We practiced daily for weeks but somehow none of us put much effort into memorizing all the words.  We stumbled and mumbled quite a bit after the first verse.

About a week before the performance, we were still not sure of the words.  Sister Vincentia, the cantata director, was so exasperated by our lack of interest that during this song, she suddenly banged on the piano and shouted “dammit”!  You could hear a pin drop on the stage.  That comment sure caught our attention.  Did Sister really utter “dammit”?  She was so irritated with us that she demanded we memorize all six verses that night for homework.  You better believe that at rehearsal the following day, the hymn was sung perfectly.  Sister Vincentia never had to raise her voice again and I realized for the first time, that nuns were human too!

Another Christmas memory involves ice skates and a big surprise.  On one particular Christmas my sister and I no longer believed in Santa but Dad wanted to surprise us with a special Christmas present.  He chose our gift from Speier’ Hardware on Barret Avenue, where every December a large area of the store was dedicated to a Christmas toy display.  Shelves were overflowing with all types of dolls, trucks and games.  Shiny new bikes were lined up in a long row.   There was even pairs of ice skates on display.   All the neighborhood kids loved to wander up and down the aisles and dream of what toy they would be receiving for Christmas.

A few days before Christmas, Dad came home from Speier’s carrying a big box under his arm.  It was gift-wrapped and the tag had both our names written on it.  He carefully placed it underneath the decorated Christmas tree.  We were intrigued.  We would pick it up, shake it and speculate on the contents.  After much jiggling and shaking, we decided that the box contained a pair of ice skates.  We pictured ourselves skating on ice in beautiful costumes just like the girls in the Ice Capades.  Can you imagine the dismay in our eyes, when we opened the box and pulled out a regulation-size basketball?  I’m sure my Dad thought it was the perfect present for two young girls.  We tried to hide our disappointment because we didn’t want to hurt Dad’s feelings.  Bouncing a basketball was enjoyable but it would never match the thrill of skating across the ice!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Okay, maybe I’m going too far putting the words “Christmas” and “hate” in the same title.  Instead of “hate”, how about “dislike intensely”?  Wouldn’t want you to think that Mimi is a total scrooge!

Perhaps I’ll start with the negative aspects of Christmas cards.  First, there’s the shopping for and selection of the cards.  It has to be sweet and cute but still convey a worthwhile holiday message.  It has to look like it cost at least $3 a card but actually be purchased at an inexpensive price.  (Notice I wrote “inexpensive” instead of that other word, lest you think Mimi is a cheapskate!)  The price requirement is a tall order and some years the cards are impressive and other years, not as much.

Once the cards are chosen, there’s the chore of addressing each one.  My fingers get tired and occasionally my penmanship shows it.  At least the stamps do not have to be licked anymore!

Here’s what I love about Christmas cards.  Every December I get the opportunity to think about every person on the list as I address their card.  Good memories are attached to each of these names.  Childhood friends, aunts and uncles who are now in their 80’s, my godmother, and neighbors I lived next to for more than 20 years are part of this list.  My husband has childhood friends, tennis buddies and former employees of his on the index of names.   For years we mailed a card to his former boss at a furniture store where he was briefly employed as a young man.  Then one Christmas we received a note from her daughter saying she had died during the year.  A  Christmas card was our only connection to this lovely woman.

I  love opening the mailbox, searching inside and collecting the cards.  On many of them I can identify the sender by their handwriting.  I rush into the house to sit down, unseal them and savor the news that is contained in each of them.  It feels good to be in touch with people from the past, even if it is only for a few minutes.  This brief connection is a big part of the overall joy of the Christmas celebration.

I’ve just finished writing Christmas cards for 2011.  Although there are parts of the process I “intensely dislike”, I will continue the card writing ritual as long as I am able to because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

This lite potato salad is perfect for an Easter dinner; especially when you’ve been snacking on chocolate Easter bunnies all day.  It’s a “Tangy Lemon Pepper Potato Salad” from the Pillsbury cookbook entitled “Calorie-Wise Meals and Snacks”.  Each 1/2 cup serving contains 50 calories and just 2 grams of fat.

Tangy Lemon Pepper Potato Salad


6 to 8 new red potatoes, sliced

3 eggs, hard-cooked

1/2 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped prosciutto ham or sliced deli ham


1/3 cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

In large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook sliced potatoes in small amount of water until fork tender, about 12 minutes; drain well.

Cut 2 of the eggs into eighths; reserve remaining egg for garnish.  In large bowl, combine warm potatoes, 2 cut-up eggs, celery. green onions and ham.

In small, combine all dressing ingredients; blend well.  Spoon over salad mixture; toss gently to coat.  Cover; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours until chilled.  Just before serving, slice remaining egg.  Garnish top of salad with egg as desired.  Makes 8 (1/2 cup) servings.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I’m not sure if the Easter Bunny loves carrot bread but he should.  After all, bunnies love carrots and this bread is chock full of them.  Carrot bread would make a welcome addition to any Easter Brunch menu.  It also freezes well.  This recipe came from a Pillsbury cookbook.

Carrot Bread

2 cups flour (not self-rising)

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups finely shredded carrots

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour bottom of 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Combine all ingredients; mix just until well blended.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; loosen edges and remove from pan.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

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