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Archive for the ‘Traditions’ Category

Dear Readers,

As children, my sisters and I enjoyed dyeing Easter eggs almost as much as hunting for our Easter baskets.  I say almost because one year I found my basket in the bath tub, of all places.  Anyway, back to our egg dyeing.

Mom purchased Paas Egg Dye because she thought it was the best brand for producing vivid colors.  Two  tablets were placed in each deep bowl, along with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar and boiling water.  We delighted in stirring the water until the tablets completely dissolved.

Our family dyed about five dozen eggs each Easter.  (It’s a good thing we loved egg salad sandwiches!)  The colors were red, green, yellow,, orange, purple and blue.  My favorite were the  purple eggs.  The eggs were left in the solution for a long time to achieve a deep tone.  That meant we were constantly lifting them up with a large spoon to see if they were dark enough.  No pale eggs for the Weickel family.

Once they reached the desired hue, they were carefully placed on the cardboard drying rack that was converted from the Paas box.  After the egg was dry and cool, Mom used a soft white cloth to apply a small amount of shortening.  The egg was then buffed to produce a glowing finish.  On a few eggs, we drew flowers, crosses, or printed our name with the small clear crayon that Paas provided.  But the final egg was the special egg!  It was placed in each color and the end result was always the same:  a brownish, grayish egg we named the “Weickel” egg because we were certain that we were the only family that had created this particular Easter tradition.

Happy Easter and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

You may be wondering who Betty and Sally are.  Well, they are playmates of my two granddaughters.  But they are not human!  Let me explain further.

Betty, whose full name is “Betty Boomerang” is a roly-poly penguin-type stuffed bird.  Her fur is purple with bands of fluorescent lime green fur and turquoise fabric that covers her chest and belly.  A set of two black eyes are narrowly placed above her bright orange beak.  Her webbed feet are also brint orange.  A shock of baby blue hair springs from her head.  A shelf in the toy department of Wal-Mart was her first home.

Betty Boomerang became a part of a game that we played with our first granddaughter every time she visited.  Emily had to guess where Betty was hiding.  We would search under beds, in closets, on shelves, behind doors and even in the shower for her.  It became such a ritual that as soon as Emily walked through the front door, her first words were “Where’s Betty Boomerang hiding today?”

When her younger sister, Maggie, arrived, I knew she would enjoy a stuffed playmate of her own.  So “Silly Sally” became a member of the family.  She’s a yellow furry chick with golden velvet beak and legs to match.  She has the same black eyes as Betty and sports a shimmery yellow ribbon bow under her chin.  A tuft of white hair emerges from the top of her head.  Maggie loves investigating the various hiding places of Sally and is thrilled when she discovers her.

We are returning to California in a few weeks.  So the stuffed playmates will be placed on a closet shelf for their winter hibernation,  and the  girls will bid them farewell pretty soon.  I just hope that when we return next spring, they haven’t outgrown their furry playmates:  Betty Boomerang and Silly Sally!  I know Mimi won’t!

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,

My daughter-in-law told me about an advent calendar of activities she crafted for our granddaughter.  It contains lots of fun things to do and make.  Some of the undertakings scheduled on her calendar consist of:

1.  Making tissue paper stars to hang in the windows

2.  Drinking hot chocolate with Daddy

3.  Singing Christmas carols

4.  Buying the Christmas tree

5.  Eating dinner by the Christmas lights

6.  Baking cookies with Mommy

7.  Making handprint paper ornaments

8.  Learning the “Angel of God” prayer

And the list goes on and on.

I thought it was such a clever idea.  It keeps the little ones occupied performing the daily activity, while it takes the focus off the seemingly endless wait for the arrival of Santa Claus.  Danielle got the idea from www.artfulparent.typepad.com blog entitled “A Christmas Tree Advent Calendar”.  Check it out and maybe you can start making Christmas traditions with your little ones.

My second “Toddler Tip” is a safety tip.  Saw this tip on the evening news.  It concerns the small button-like batteries in many toys.  Be sure that the battery does not drop out onto the floor where crawling toddlers can grab them and put them into their mouths.  Swallowing one of these batteries is very serious.  The acid from the battery leaks out and damages tissue in the esophagus.  The damage can be permanent.  An x-ray is the only way to know for sure if a battery has been swallowed.  Keep an eagle eye out for any of these loose batteries.  After all, I want you and your toddlers to have a safe holiday as well as a happy one.  And remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Our local newspaper is requesting readers to share stories of their family’s Thanksgiving traditions.  Well let me tell you about our family’s Thanksgiving celebration during the 50’s.

First of all, we enjoyed our feast early in the day around 11:30 AM, immediately after the Macy’s Parade on television ended.  Mom got up before 5 AM to start preparing the food.

We didn’t have turkey because Mom didn’t care for the taste of it.  Instead she baked a large chicken.  (It was the first thing we smelled, when we awakened on Thanksgiving morning.)  It was stuffed with her delicious apple and raisin dressing.  (In the south, stuffing is referred to as dressing.)  There were sweet potatoes covered with brown sugar and butter, along with canned peas and asparagus mixed together.  Fresh peas and asparagus were too expensive for us to buy and weren’t readily available.  We also had a can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce that was sliced and placed on a serving plate.  Some years brown ‘n serve rolls were on the menu.  For dessert, we had two pies:  pumpkin and mince meat.  Dad’s favorite was mince meat and I liked it too.  Mom made real whipped cream for the pumpkin pie.  It came from the inch or two of real cream that rose to the top of each milk bottle.

There were five of us at the table; my parents and two sisters.  A tablecloth was placed over the gray formica table with chrome legs and four red vinyl upholstered chairs.  The youngest child, my sister Nancy, sat on a small wooden chair next to my Mom.  I sat across from Dad and Martha sat across from Mom and Nancy.

Our kitchen was tiny but some of my best childhood memories are of meals we shared together in this room.  And Thanksgiving was always a very special meal.  We gave thanks to God for the food and then we ate and laughed and talked together as a family.

Every Thanksgiving I remember those family meals we shared in the 50’s in our little kitchen on Breckinridge Street.  And I thank God for those cherished memories!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

The following is a continuation of our week long celebration of Easter.

On Holy Saturday, Easter preparations were made.  Mom thoroughly cleaned the house and Dad grocery shopped for the Easter meal.  Our traditional meal consisted of baked ham, two kinds of potato salad:  American and German, baked beans, asparagus, and sliced hard-boiled Easter eggs.  Dessert was candy from our Easter basket.

On Easter Sunday, we arose early because we knew the Easter Bunny had hidden eggs and a basket of candy for us.  We hunted for these treasures before we went to Mass.  The Easter Bunny always hid these goodies in various places around the house.  One year I found my Easter basket in the bath tub!

Easter Mass was a very special time where we wore new clothes to church.  Mom bought us new dresses, shiny black patent-leather maryjanes, and a perky Easter bonnet.  If Easter was early and cool weather was expected, we wore new spring coats in pastel colors to match our dresses.  Some years we even donned fancy white gloves.

After Mass, the Easter feast was eaten at noon.  My Mom’s widowed sister joined us for the meal.  The Kodak Brownie camera was brought out and we posed wearing our brand new Easter outfits.

There was no school on Easter Monday and Tuesday.  We used those days to play and sneak treats from the Easter baskets.  Of course, there was always egg salad sandwiches for lunch!

Life was certainly good in the 1950’s, especially at Easter time.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

As a kid growing up in the 1950’s, Easter was the culmination of a week in which many religious services were attended by my family.

Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter observed in commemoration of the institution of the Eucharst, was a school holiday.  We attended an early morning service where we marched in a procession honoring the Blessed Sacrament.  The second and third graders wore Communion dresses and carried baskets of beautiful mixed spring flowers.  Later in the afternoon we returned to church for a Holy Hour of prayer and songs.  Each class in my grade school was assigned a specific hour of prayer.

Good Friday was a solemn day where the story of the passion of Christ was read.  The service usually took place during the hours of noon and 3 PM., corresponding to the amount of time Christ suffered on the cross before His death.  Many stores were closed during these 3 hours.  This day was a time of great solemnity and sadness.  We did not watch television at all on Good Friday.

But this was the night we dyed Easter eggs using Paas egg dye.  The tablets were mixed with white vinegar and boiling water which was poured into large, deep cups.  A different cup was used for each color.  The colors were brighter and more brilliant than they are today.  Our family dyed about 5 dozen eggs and the last egg, called the “Weickel” egg (Weickel is my maiden name) was dipped into every color with the same results every year; the egg turned out an ugly brownish gray color.  But it was tradition, so we always concluded with the “Weickel” egg.  Each egg was then carefully polished with a little shortening to make the shell shine.  The eggs were then returned to the carton in a rainbow arrangement.  Every year we commented that these were the prettiest eggs ever!

Be sure to read Part 2 to find out what my family did on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  And remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

A couple of years ago my husband and I were checking out some model homes in Rancho Mirage, CA.  It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon in early December and the piped-in vice of Frank Sinatra singing “Silent Night” filled the air.  Tears started welling up in my eyes and my husband wondered what was wrong.  I answered that the strains of the hymn carried me back to my childhood and Christmases past.  You see “Silent Night” was a major part of our family tree-decorating tradition.

As a child, I couldn’t wait until we decorated the Christmas tree.  Mom carried a big box of ornaments out of the attic, while Dad secured the tree to the stand.  The next step was positioning the multi-color lights on the tree, while everyone had an opinion about the placement of these lights.  Then my Dad would give us a look and we knew it was time to shut up.  My sisters and I loved selecting the ornaments and hanging them on the tree.

My older sister’s job was to decorate the creche.  Our nativity scene consisted of a stable constructed with cherry tree branches and designed to look like a log cabin.  It was hand-crafted by Dad’s deceased youngest brother.  Martha would carefully apply cotton batting to the roof to simulate snow.  Real straw from our neighbor’s stable of horses, rested on the floor and in the crib.  Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus were arranged along with the shepherd boy, the Three Wise Men, and various stable animals.  An angel with flowing robes and a banner that read “Peace on Earth” was anchored atop the stable door with a white tree light that shone down upon the scene.

Trimming the tree took a lot of time but when we were finished, we were so proud of our handiwork.  It was at this time that Mom turned off all the lights in the house and Dad turned on the lit tree.  Then we all held hands and Dad, with his strong tenor voice, led us in singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”.  This was the magical Christmas moment awaited by all of us.  Here I was standing in the soft glow of the tree with the people I loved most in the world, and all of us singing a song that truly represented the meaning of Christmas.  What a beautiful memory my Dad created with that tradition.  It will remain with me and my sisters always!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

We lived in Pennsylvania for over 30 years and during that time we dealt with the same bank.  The ownership changed hands about four times; the last two owners were Provident National Bank and finally Wachovia Bank.  As the ownership changed, one thing remained constant and that was the three women tellers, who over the years became my friends.

You see there were no ATM’s in the early 70’s, so every bank transaction was made through a teller.  Weekly trips were made to the bank to deposit my husband’s paycheck and withdraw cash for the purchase of groceries and gasoline.

The ladies behind the counter were courteous and friendly.  There were photos of their children and grandchildren by their stations.  If the bank wasn’t crowded, we would chat about family, the weather and other pleasantries.  Each teller kept a container full of lollypops on the counter for children.  Even if I was alone, they encouraged me to take a lollypop home for my daughter and son.

One Christmas, I decided to do something for them in appreciation for their thoughtfulness.  A large plate full of Christmas cookies and thick slices of my “Apricot Brandy Nut Cake” would be their reward.  The nut cake was a type of fruitcake that did not contain the dreaded candied fruit!  Walnuts, maraschino cherries and raisins were the main ingredients.  But the best part was the apricot brandy; two tablespoons in the cake mixture and another 1/2 cup used to moisten the cheesecloth surrounding the cake.

The recipe read “Moisten several layers of cheesecloth with 1/4 cup of the brandy.  Wrap cake in cheesecloth, then in foil.  Store in refrigerator.  In 2 or 3 days, moisten cheesecloth again with remaining brandy.”  Needless  to say, Mimi moistened that cheesecloth several times.  That cake was so full of booze, if a match was struck near it, it would have exploded into flames!

Well, the bank tellers liked the cookies but loved the cake.  The “Apricot Brandy Nut Cake” became a Christmas tradition for quite a few years.  I grew tired of baking the cake but sure enough every November one of the tellers would ask if I was baking it again that year.  How could I let them down?

I just hope they double-checked their figures when counting money, after having a piece of this cake!  Look for the recipe in my next blog.  Until then,

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

On October 27, I wrote about my family’s experience of gathering and using black walnuts from Cousin Urban Heck’s backyard tree, and how they were an essential ingredient in “Sausage Cookies”.

These cookies were a traditional holiday favorite and we enjoyed eating them for many Christmases.  After Mom died, we tried to find the recipe among her cookbooks but were unsuccessful.  My sisters and I knew that two of my aunts made the same cookies, so we asked our cousins if anyone had the recipe.  Sure enough, our cousin, Joanne, had a copy and mailed it to us.  Here’s the recipe and I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did.

Sausage Cookies

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

2 – 6 oz. pkgs. black walnuts

3 or 4 cups flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar and add to the mixture.  Fold in black walnuts.  Shape cooky dough into logs about 6 ” long.  They will resemble sausages.  Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Refrigerate overnight.  Slice cookie dough in 1/4 ” slices and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Note:  The “3 or 4 cups of flour” means you start out with 3 cups and if you need more to make the dough stiff enough to shape into “sausages”, just add more.  This recipe can be halved as the full recipe makes about 144 cookies.   I told you my family loved those cookies!

Keep smilin!

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