Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Candy Tradition

In yesterday's blog post, I wrote about some of those family traditions of ours that you SHALL NEVER MESS WITH.  I'm sure every family has some of those, and we sure have our fair share.  In fact, in that post I didn't even begin to reveal any of our food traditions.  There are quite a few of those, too.

One of our Christmas candy traditions goes way back - it probably started about 25 years ago, to the best of my recollection and calculations.  My SIL, Stephanie, cross-stitched four little treat bags one Christmas for our four children, and as I recall they were filled with candy when they received them.

Every year since then, those treat bags have been filled with various assortments of Christmas candy.

These are some of those things that any guests visiting our home, other than family, will never see, and that is because each year those bags are loaded and hung upstairs on the bedroom doorknobs.

As my four children have grown up and gotten wiser, there have even been specific requests for what gets loaded into those little sacks.  They don't just want M & M's, or hard candies, or tiny candy canes, as before.  Now they want truffles.

You know, those expensive little chocolate balls of ecstasy.

So expense is one problem, just one of the many problems that have developed along with this Christmas candy tradition.

Others are greed, gluttony, and theft.

At times the children become delusional, convinced one bag contains more than another.  (I am careful to divvy them out in exactly equal amounts.  I eat any extras that would make one bag fuller than the others!)

Sometimes overnight one bag becomes empty and another is bulging.

Sometimes the flavors have been rearranged among the bags.

Then there are accusations and suspicions.  Criminals on the lam.

On a rare occasion, an entire bag goes missing.

There's a lot of stealthy stuff going on at times up there in the hallway.  Covert missions.  Skirmishes and ambushes.

Yes, those innocent little GIFT bags at times bring out the most evil nature within my children's hearts.

But then I remember, a very special little child was born one Christmas long ago who would someday deal with all the hearts of evil...  There's the TRUE GIFT, and I'm so thankful.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Christmas Traditions are Written in STONE

There are certain Christmas traditions in our home that you DO NOT MESS WITH.  I know that sentence is not grammatically correct, but that is basically how it has been put to me by my children.  Or, in other words, no matter how insignificant I may think any of these household Christmas items may be, the directive is that I shall NOT eliminate any of them.

So, I comply.

I'm sure other homes have very similar boxes of decorations which are laboriously carried down from the attic each year and each item is subsequently carefully placed in its designated spot throughout the house. And of course there may be new items added each year.  That's fine.  It's just a problem when somebody notices that something that USED to be there all those years is now GONE.

I'm thinking about these silly written-in-stone traditions, because today the out of town kids start making their way home for the holidays.  I know how this goes.  They will be looking.  They will be checking.  They will notice if I have messed with the traditional Christmas items.

I have taken a last look around, and I think I have most of the required pieces in their proper places.  

There is a wreath on the front and back doors.  Check.

The light up deer and Christmas tree are out in the yard, and most of their lights still work.  Do you think they will notice the deer no longer moves his head from side to side?

The Christmas tree stands in the corner of the living room, and has been all decorated.  I wonder if they will notice that the angel at the top has been replaced with a pickle?

The matching lit up basket of greens is in its place on the end table.

Scrooge the hubby has decorated the mantel over the fireplace with Christmas greens, candles and angels.

Heaven forbid if we were to get rid of those old stinky, musty, faded angels the kids made about 25 years ago in art class.  They've been reglued and repaired so many times over the years, yet we still gently, lovingly pack them away for each next Christmas.  Yep, they would throw a fit.

The stockings must be hung, whether or not anything is ever put into them.  We only hang stockings for those of us still living here at home, and of course there has been some flak over the years from those other kids that have moved away.  Our kids are 34, 32, 30, and 27, mind you!  Yet when it comes to the Christmas traditions, they act like they are still youngsters.

Three plus a small one for the puppy
The little Christmas tree some of the kids used in their bedroom when they were still at home, and then later used in their college dorm rooms at Christmas time, must be in place and decorated.  And, it better have the same 1000 miniature ornaments it always did.

Somewhere in the house there must be an advent calendar or some other sort of counting down device. If not, they will argue among themselves as to how many days are actually left until Christmas.  Do you count today or not?  Do you count the "day of" or not?  They're ridiculous, so the countdown calendar is in place.  I took this photo a while back, so don't let it screw up your "count."

The Christmas card basket is in its place and is getting full.  The kiddos will want to read the letters of  family friends and catch up on all the yearly happenings.  A yearly dose of all those letters from families that had those incredible years full of amazing and exciting experiences and accomplishments is a healthy grounding trip back down into the land of humble pie, regret and inferiority.    

The little leg lamp is in its place.  Yes, they will look for that silly old thing.

The corny Christmas mugs are on the mug rack.  Every year when I unpack them, there's more there than I recall packing away, and I swear they've been reproducing in the storage box.

Even the bathrooms are dressed in their Christmas finery.  I would be reprimanded if I were to skip decorating those rooms.

Red and green snowman/Christmas tree themed bathroom
Blue and white snowflake themed bathroom

And finally, the puppy's mistletoe headband is nearby and ready.  It's not that the puppy would be missing that - again, it's the kids.

I suppose I've brought this all upon myself, by saying over the years "I don't ever wanna grow up."  Well the kids, now adults, have taken that to heart.  And so, I shall NOT upset the kids.  I shall NOT mess with the traditions.

I suppose it's not such a bad thing to be a child at heart.  After all, it was the birth of a very special little child that changed the world forever....

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Narnia: The Musical

Last weekend, the final special event the hubby and I attended was our church's production of "Narnia: The Musical."  Although I reported on this last year at this time (our church typically does its Christmas productions two years in a row, and you can read that post here ), we decided to go again as we had heard they had upgraded the makeup, scenery, and special effects.  We took our 8-year-old grandtwins along with us, who also had seen it last year, but enjoyed the show so much they were eager to go again.

I'm always impressed with our theater team's attention to detail.  And that - a standard of excellence - is probably why 4400 others came this year to see one of the six showings of "Narnia."  The word is obviously out in our area that this church does a Broadway quality show each year.

Several things were different this year from last year's production.

First we were greeted by newspaper carriers dressed in clothing from the 40's era.  We received a paper with news of Thursday, July 6, 1944.  One advertisement in the paper was for Turkish Delight candy, which we were able to purchase on the concessions table in the lobby.

The entire lobby area had been transformed into a winter wonderland scene to correlate with the Narnia's winter theme.  Entire walls were covered with winter scene murals and a multitude of sparkling trees were decorated throughout the lobby and halls.

Brianna and Tori prior to the show.
For the hour before each performance, a big band was set up at the one end of the entrance area and played popular 1940's era Big Band tunes.

As folks entered and waited in line for the theater doors to open, they enjoyed hearing Tommy Gee and the Clef Notes play many familiar tunes.

Son Caleb played his trumpet in the ensemble, and had numerous solos throughout the gig.

  This band contained a combination of church and community members who had met and rehearsed for a number of months prior to the production weekend.  They played an hour of tunes prior to each of the six performances throughout the weekend.

Caleb had double duty - following each big band performance, he headed up onto the main stage to open the Narnia show.  After greeting the audience and giving a few basic instructions, he presented a brief explanation of the true meaning of Narnia.  Narnia is an allegory in which the characters and story mirrorthe story of Jesus in the Bible, and the drama team wanted that to be fully understood by each audience member.

Some views of the scenery:

Castle of the evil White Witch
Cair Paravel - castle of good Narnians

The children's country boarding home
At intermission we sampled some authentic Turkish Delight candy, which is actually a minor part in the story plot.  The production crew had ordered it in for the show from the one and only candy company in the entire United States that makes authentic Turkish Delight.

A few more scenes from the land of Narnia:

This year the production crew added "flyers" to the performance.  Audience members were spellbound as various characters flew through the air.  The white witch, one of the flyers, met her demise when she was thrown from her castle through the air to her death by the good Aslan, the lion.

One thing that I think is so commendable about these performances is how the cast members and crew mingle with the guests out in the lobby after the show.  Of course the girls wanted to have some photos with both the lovable and not-so-lovable characters.  

Aslan the lion
The White Witch
One of the White Witch's wolves
Father Christmas
The White Stag
And finally the Eagle, who so generously allowed the girls to each pluck one of his sleeve feathers to take home as a souvenir.  Wow, did that make them smile!

After this year's extravaganza, I will be anxious to see what show the team picks for next year.  If there is one thing that's certain, it will be an awesomely done production illustrating a very timely message.  

I wish you all could be there to see it.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Four Christmas Party Food Recipes

This weekend the 2014 annual family Christmas party will be hosted at the home of my brother Bruce, SIL Erin, and their son Zack.  Four generations of family members will be attending, which is pretty special in my book, and visiting with all of them is one of the greatest "gifts" I will be receiving this holiday season.

We are a family that loves to eat.  As with many other families, our gatherings center around food and fellowship.  Rarely is a table set that is skimpy with food.  In fact, usually our serving dishes cover one table, then spread out to another surface or two elsewhere.

And that's a very good thing in my mind.  We are blessed to be able to enjoy plenty of good food around the holidays here, and I'm happy to share the recipes for the four simple dishes I will be contributing to the party fare.

Snack Mix

  2 packages Pepperidge Farm Whole Wheat Cheddar fish
  1 package Pepperidge Farm Baby Cheddar fish
  1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  3 teaspoons dill weed
  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  2/3 cup vegetable oil

  Place all goldfish into a 9 x 13 baking pan and mix them together.
  Mix all other ingredients in a bowl until well mixed.
  Drizzle over the goldfish and stir well until all fish are coated.
  Bake in a 250 degree oven uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, removing and stirring every 5 minutes.
  Cool thoroughly then store in a covered container.

Ham and Pickle Rollups


  9 or 10 slices cooked ham from the deli (you will use one slice per pickle)
  32 ounce jar Claussen Kosher Dill Whole pickles
  8 ounce block of cream cheese


  Set the cream cheese out an hour or two early to allow it to soften a bit.
  Lay a sheet of waxed paper on your counter and place several pieces of the ham on it.
  Dry the lunchmeat gently by pressing it with a paper towel.
  Using a knife spread an even layer of cream cheese on each piece of ham.
  Lay a pickle at one end and roll up the ham around it.
  Secure the ham to the pickle by putting several toothpicks through the ham roll.
  Slice into pieces.
  Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Mexican Dip with Tortilla Chips

  16 ounce can refried beans
  1 envelope taco seasoning
  8 ounces sour cream
  16 ounces thick and chunky salsa
  2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  green olives, sliced
  black olives, sliced
  tortilla chips

As you can see in the next photo, this dip is simply layered.


  Spread the refried beans in the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish.
  Mix the taco seasoning with the sour cream and spread that on next.
  Spread the salsa on top.
  Sprinkle the grated cheese next.
  Top with sliced black and green olives.
  Serve with scoop type tortilla chips.

Simple Deviled Eggs


  1 dozen eggs, hardboiled and cooled
  1/4 cup mayo
  2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  1/4 cup dill pickle relish (or sweet pickle relish if you prefer a sweeter tasting egg)
  salt, to taste
  pepper, to taste


  Peel the eggs and slice in half.  Unload the yolks into a small bowl.
  Mash the yolks with a fork and add the other ingredients, except for the paprika.
  Mix well.  Put a spoonful into each half egg.
  Sprinkle with paprika.
  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

"Over the river and through the woods, to (brother's) house we go....."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Party at the Movie Theatre

The marquee
In my last blog post, I wrote how the hubby and I spent the past weekend attending several holiday events together.  One of them, and an event that we look forward to attending every Christmas, was held at the local movie theatre.  The financial group that handles our investments always has a catered lunch/coffee bar/movie event, open to all their clients and clients' family members.

What makes this Christmas party unique is that it's held in the local movie house, and our movie theatre is not just any old place to see a movie.

This theatre opened in January 1941, just 11 months shy of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Designed by architect David Supowitz and built by the Stiefel brothers, the Campus Theatre is one of the last of a dwindling number of single screen art deco movie palaces in the country.  The majority of the theatre's original 1941 architecture, murals, and decor remain intact today.

Here is a look at some of the art on the ceiling,

and more on the side wall.

During the first hour of the party, guests were offered a buffet lunch.  There were two full lunch buffet serving tables, another table full of dessert options, and a coffee/smoothie/beverage bar in the lobby of the theatre.

Some quests ate at the tables and couches in the rear of the theatre.  We found ourselves some seats down toward the movie screen.  While we ate, a slide show on the big screen showed a selection of Bible scriptures and pictures telling the story of the birth of the baby Jesus.  

Following that, a simple fun Christmas quiz came up.  Kids of all ages tested their expertise on some of the common Christmas traditions, stories, and songs.  Test yourself - here are fifteen of the quiz slides:

By this time, pretty much everyone had finished eating, and next there was a brief but pretty digital Christmas light show.

I became a little concerned that this woman with her very BIG pouffy hair would obstruct our view for the main event!

Finally it was time for the main event - a showing of the movie "The Polar Express."  If you haven't yet seen it, this is a movie to be enjoyed by the entire family.  "The Polar Express" is an adventure that follows a doubting young boy, who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole.  During this ride, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of Christmas never fades for those who believe.  

I am almost ready to say this movie is my very favorite Christmas movie.  With Tom Hanks doing the voices of all the adult characters in the movie, it's an engaging and entertaining holiday masterpiece.

This Christmas movie party was a delightful event, and we're grateful to be invited every year.  

Good food, some great reminders of the true meaning of Christmas, and some wonderful family-friendly entertainment.  Now that's a party!