Posts tagged with: Traditions

Snippets from Christmas Day at the Ferrell’s

Amid the chaos that happens in a house with five kids under the age of seven, twin babies and a puppy just over a year old on Christmas Day, I found time to enjoy and observe the family (sometimes known as the thundering horde that invades my peaceful domain–said with great love and affection). So I thought I’d share some of that evening with you.

The meal was lovely and we noted more eating was taking place at the adult table and lots of giggling was happening over at the kids’ table. This could be that the kids were having more fun or perhaps the adults were realizing this is the “Only happens on Christmas” meal and were devouring it with great intent? (Menu: Grilled flank steak, grilled Atlantic Salmon, Shrimp cocktail platter–made by me and not prefrozen, Augratin potatoes, crab stuffed mushrooms and bacon and broccoli salad.)

Then we dug into the Christmas stockings.

all-natural-beef-shank-bone-for-dogs-1Oh, wait. FIRST we neutralized the investigative nose of one very curious and energetic boxer/redhealer mix puppy. Yes, Rusty Puppy got a BIG beef ribeye bone to keep him out of the chaos. Of course that didn’t stop him from lying right in the middle of the family room while he gnawed happily on his gift!

Tradition continued. So, stockings…Lots of candy, do-dads, guitar/bass/mandolin strings (we have three guitarists in the family), ornaments, and toys for the kiddos. But the biggest hit, heard said by at least four adults, “We got toothbrushes. Yea! Mom forgot those last year.” Seriously people, traditions are strong with this bunch. Forget the toothbrushes once and you hear about it for years!

Almost all the presents were given out and opened, when the Jazzman got one from me to him and all the grandkids. It’s a book titled, The Book Without Any Pictures. They all gathered round and he read it to them, complete with crazy expressions and funny voices. It was a hit. Lots of giggling going on. (I couldn’t video tape it as I had my hands full of one baby and a bottle, but here is a Youtube of a teacher reading it so you can imagine the story at our house! http://youtu.be/0JXc2K0sVE8)Whole Foods Bag

Funniest thing. At one point I notice my oldest grandson walking around with a paperbag, with handles, carrying everything he got inside. No matter where he went in the house, that bag went with him. 🙂 Cracked me up, but I had to know why? His answer: Because Grandma Suzie, when I was at Nanny’s house (his other grandmother) I forgot a present and it made me cry. I don’t want to forget anything this time.” I’m still laughing over it!

Odd moment. I was listening to my oldest granddaughter read to me from her new read alone books, when I noticed the grownup kids in a circle on the far side of the room. Focusing my attention a moment, I realized they were discussing the flaws in the newest Superman movie to the actual comic story. Uhm, who knows the cannons of comic books so well that they can have a heated discussion on the merits of the new movie vs the actual original story? My kids/in-laws!

51SG6-Q8c4L._SY300_Quiet moment. My second grandson, who sort of does his own thing, brought me his new Planes book and asked me to read it to him. He crawled up beside me with a sugar cookie in his hand. He told me the name of each plane as we went and listened to the story of Dusty Crophopper. When I finished, he said, “I’ll be right back.” He returned with another cookie, cuddled up close and said, “Read it again, Grandma.” Which, of course, I did.

Peaceful scene. My son’s girlfriend got the girls big poster size coloring pages from the Frozen movie. Well, the crayons in the stockings were all spanking new, so the youngest granddaughter and the girlfriend’s little boy hunkered down in a spot and colored quietly and with great purpose.

Finally, the Jazzman was starting to doze off and the last family was packing up to leave. As soon as they went out the door…silence. No seriously, the entire house seemed to settle down into peace, quiet and ready for a long nap.

What your favorite moment from your holiday celebration? Any traditions started? Any you forgot and will now here about for an entire year?

The Year Jazzman Was In Charge Of Present Disbursal…

TreeWhen we lived in Florida, I was scheduled to work Christmas Eve night, something every nurse has faced during holidays. Now that meant I’d be gone when the kids were asleep and I’d have to leave the “scattering” of presents under the tree to the Jazzman. I’d made three piles in our bedroom of wrapped presents with the stockings stuffed for each child on top of them. I gave Jazzman strict instructions on waiting until the kids (all in elementary and middle school) had gone to bed, then he was to mix up the presents under the tree, and lay the stockings to one side. (We didn’t have a fireplace, so that’s as good as it got.)

Well, the next morning, I got an interesting story from the kids.

Apparently Jazzman went to sleep before putting out the presents. OH NO!

So my youngest daughter and son woke up at around 5 am and imagine this…NO PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE!!

Well, being the smart kids they were, they quickly figured out Jazzman hadn’t done his bit. So they knocked on the bedroom door to wake him, saying, “Dad, you forgot to put our presents under the tree.”

So, Jazzman hauls out the 3 piles and puts them under the tree. In 3 piles.

The kids: No Dad, you have to mess them up like this.

And they proceed to make a huge mess of the presents, mixing them all up. In the mean time, Jazzman has decided he was awake and started making coffee. The kids put a big kabosh on that.

The kids: No Dad, you have to go back to bed now.

Jazzman: Why?

The kids: Because we have to find our presents and try to figure out what they are.20131224_011416-1

Jazzman: What do you mean find your presents?

The kids: Every year while you and Mom sleep, we get up early and find all our presents. We make a pile, then try to figure out what each one is. Then we put them back in a mess under the tree.

Jazzman, looking sleepy and confused: But they were in neat piles. You two just made the mess.

The kids: Daddy, this is our tradition!

Jazzman gave up and crawled back in bed. He said he layed there with the door cracked, listening to the two of them giggle and rattle the wrapped packages. Finally, they went back to bed, too. When I came home, I had to wake everyone up to open their presents, unaware of their little tradition.

🙂

Close to the Fire final for Barnes and NobleI love that story. It’s amazing the traditions our kids pick up that we don’t even start, while others are intentional. I must make Buckeye candy every year, as well as chocolate mint cookies, peanut blossoms, coconut jam thumbprints and m&m cookies. I have to decorate cookie cutter cookies with the kids and now grandkids. We have to go to church on Christmas Eve just to hear my daughter sing O Holy Night. Everyone must get a stocking full of fun things and everyone gets warm socks. Oh yes, I also have to have a homemade cheeseball on Christmas Day for them to munch on while dinner is cooking.

So, dear readers, what is your favorite family tradition? Is there a food item you must have? Do you presents in a certain order? Does your family have something you must do every year in order to make the holiday a success? Since it’s holiday time, I think I’ll give away a copy of my newest book, CLOSE TO THE FIRE to one reader who posts a tradition today.

 

O Plastic Tree, O Plastic Tree

I need help here. 

I’m going to say it.  Shameful as it may be, yes, I’ll say it, right here in front of God and everybody else.

Christmas treeI have a fake Christmas tree.

My house is 164 years old.  It’s partially restored but a long way from finished.  I’ll never forget the moment when I walked into the front foyer for the first time.  I looked up at the ten-foot ceiling, then I looked at the glass sidelights and transom that wrap around the glass-paneled front door, all original 1800s wavy glass panes, loose enough to rattle in the muntins, uninsulated, and leaky as hell, and I said,  “Think of the Christmas tree I could put in here!”

That’s half the reason I bought this ongoing-project-of-a house.

I love Christmas trees.

I love all of them, from the uber-chic designer trees to the tacky trees with ugly garland piled on a foot thick.

And falling somewhere on the upper middle of the Christmas tree scale, is mine.  I have a really gchristmas tree 6reat tree. 

Of course I can say that, because it’s always the same.  It’s a fake tree.

And okay, yeah.   I know.  That’s not nearly as good as a real tree. I know this because everybody around me has real trees and when I’m talking with somebody and I say I have an artificial tree, there’s a very brief, subtle pause, with just a slight lifting of both eyebrows.  You might not even notice it if you’re not paying attention.

Then they smile and nod, trying to hide the fact that they’ve just judged me.

“Oh,” they’re thinking.  “I thought she had better taste!  Bet she bought it at K-Mart.”

I could have bougchristmas tree7ht it at K-Mart.  Just two days ago I walked through their Christmas department and drooled over their awesome selection of really awesome artificial trees.

But I didn’t buy it there.  I bought it at an upscale Christmas shoppe. 

See?  There’s an extra p and an e on the end of “shop” which proves it’s upscale. 

Snork!  Ahem….

I don’t get a real tree for two reasons. 

First, I have an unusual attachment to trees. I feel a kinship with them.  I have such a deep love for trees that it’s almost painful for me to see one cut.  It’s a sad weakness.   I can’t enjoy having a cut tree in my house without wondering at what beautiful thing it might have become if I hadn’t cut it.  I just can’t do it.

Second, I like to put my tree up at the winter solstice, December 20th or 21st, and leave it up until  February 2nd, Groundhog Day.  Some of y’all remember a blog I did last January called Waiting For The Light To Come.  I confessed that I get clinical depression in the winter, and February 2nd is the point at which I can feel the season turning, spring coming, and hope renewed. So that’s when I’m ready to take down my tree and unplug its cheerful lights.

No real tree will last that long.

When I was a little girl, Daddy would take me out to the woods and we’d cut down a little cedar tree.  It was christmas tree redusually about six feet tall, and it smelled heavenly. 

Then a few years later we got a fake tree, and it was full and fluffy and perfect.  Every needle was stick-straight and the same shade of fake green.  I hated it.  From about a mile away you could look at it and say, “that’s a plastic tree.”  When I was little, fake trees were awful.

Things have changed.

Artificial trees come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and they’re beautiful.

Now my tree is nine feet tall, slender, and looks like a real evergreen, even up close. 

I wrap several strands of white lights in piles around the center “trunk” then wind many more lights through the branches.  I learned this technique from a book with a title I can’t remember, but it was probably something like “Martha Stewart rocks Christmas” or some such.  When I plug it in, with all those lights in the center, it glows like something from another realm.

But no matter how excellent my tree is, it’s still a plastic tree.

If y’all read the newsletter, you know that Marco, Paulo and some of the other guys on staff had some issues recently when they went out hunting for trees to decorate the various rooms here in the lair.   Christmas tree3

No fake trees here. 

So I did a survey in the lair about what kind of trees the Bandits get for their own homes.

Bandita Suz said, “We’ve always gotten a real tree since we got married. The Jazzman (aka, my hubby) loved them when he was small. Hated helping his mom put up the fake one.”

Bandita Nancy said, “We have a real tree.  We like the smell of it and the texture.

Yeah.  No love for the plastic tree.

Bandita Jo said,  “We generally like a live tree.  There’s something very satisfying and comforting about the smell of pine in the house.”

Yes. Yes, there is. *Heavy sigh*

Bandita Tawny said, “I love real trees, but both of my girls have really bad allergies. After a few sniffly, watery holidays I gave in and got an artificial tree.  Ours is about 8 foot, green and lit with whichristmas tree branchte lights.”

Finally, another artificial tree!

Small consolation though.  Tawny has a plastic tree, but she doesn’t like it.  “I miss having a live tree,” she said.  “The scent and feel of it is always wonderful.  But I do bring in a few boughs to decorate with, and we have a live wreath on the door.  Those don’t seem to send my kids into misery.” 

Okay she’s only doing this for the sake of her children’s health.  Hmmm..

I asked Bandita Trish what she had, and she said, “Fake. I actually have two, the smallish one I’ve had since college and a big one that I got when we bought our house because the front living room has a vaulted ceiling. I don’t like cleaning up after live ones, and knowing my allergies they would make me sneeze anyway.”

Hmmm…once again, allergies are the determining factor.

I’m still feeling like the odd woman out.

Joanie said, “Replica tree…yeah…that’s what I’ll call it…replica.  Don’t recall a real tree growing up as my brother suffered from allergies.”

Once again, it would be a real tree if not for the children’s health—or for the sake of the cats…“The artificial ones HAVE improved over the years, especially in assembly,” Joan said.  “I have a pre-lit one now about 6 feet tall that comes in 3 pieces. And I can tie it to the wall so certain kitty elves don’t topple it.”

Yes, the kitties do love to climb the Christmas tree.  Real or fake. 

Hey, at least Joanie tried to be diplomatic about it.

Christmas tree with white tipsBandita Caren said, “Our tree is fake. It’s a 6-foot Douglas Fir and is, naturally, pine green…We stick with fake because pine is the thing I am most allergic to in the world!”

Okay I’m getting a complex here.

Even my evil twin, Duchesse Jeanne, stands against me in this question.. “We always get a fresh tree, usually on my birthday,” she said.  “We’ve bought the kind you can plant before, but I’m running out of places in the yard to put them, so fresh cut it is.” 

Hmmmm.

Bandita Christina said, “We do a fake tree. Not many people have real ones where I live. It’s getting on in years now, probably needs replacing, It’s plastic, with dark green needles and it’s decorated with all the loChristmas tree2ve and tackiness we can manage.”

Yes, yes, YES!  Finally!  Apparently I would fit in better if I moved to Australia.  Ahem.

Bandita Anna Sugden, who lives in England now, said, “These days, a real tree – we always get a special “non-drop” tree (A Nordmann or a Norwegian Spruce, she says, which I’m assuming will not drop its needles) so that it’s safe for the cats…Have always preferred a real tree, but when we lived in NJ we couldn’t get non-drop trees, so bought a fab fake tree (which we still have in the loft), which looked very realistic!”

Yeah.  You can tell she’s just trying to make me feel better, can’t you? That’s the thing about the Bandits.  We always have each others’ backs, even if one of us is off in left field with regard to Christmas trees.  *heavy sigh*

Bandita Susan Sey said, “I Christmas tree fiber opticprefer real…In our on-the-road-for-Christmas years, we sometimes will buy a really small real tree (think Charlie Brown’s Christmas).”

I found a ray of hope, though.  She went on to say, “Sometimes, we just decorate my extremely tacky fake tree from Target.  It’s about two feet tall and comes complete with LED color-shifting lights built into the end of each needle.  It’s wicked awesome.  Like a disco ball/Christmas tree mashup.”

That’s the kind of tree that both my mom and my father-in-law have now.  Very space efficient.  And I’ve gotta say, they do rock. 

I remember a couple of years when my mom had a retro silver aluminum tree.  I hated those when I was little (when they were NOT retro) but now I think they’re kind of cool.  They reflect any colors around them and are Christmas tree vintage silver foiljust straight up fun.

Disco trees notwithstanding, artificial trees of all kinds  have come a long way.  I have to get up close to some of them–even touch them–to know whether they’re real or not.  

Still, it’s obvious that I’m outnumbered.  I’m thinking of applying for minority status.

My squeamishness about cutting down a live tree (or buying one that’s been cut down) is definitely in the minority.   With a fake tree, there’s no magical smell of evergreen that says “Christmas” any time you breathe it in.  There’s no “real tree in the house” energy about it.

But you don’t have to water an artificial tree.  And it doesn’t drop needles or turn brown. 

Just sayin.

Christmas tree purpleBandit Buddies, what do you do?

Is your tree real?  Or fake?

If it’s fake, what color is it?  How tall?  And do you miss the touch and scent of the real thing?

If it’s a real tree, where do you get it?  Do you cut your own?  If not, where do you buy it?

When do you put it up? Is there a special day each year?  Or is it whenever you manage to get to it?

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, do you participate in another festival or holiday this time of year? 

 

Watch for our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, with fun and so many prizes Santa can’t carry them, coming in just a few days!

Cookie Exchange!

Tradition. Tradition!

LOL! Okay, now I have the song from Fiddler On The Roof running through my head. However, for me, and I dare say some of you, tradition plays an important part of the holiday season.

Thanksgiving at my house always has Turkey with oyster stuffing, Southern style green beans, corn casserole courtesy of Paula Dean, my mother’s cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie. For the past few years my daughters have added their touch to the meal with Alison’s crunchy pecan-topped sweet potato casserole and Lyndsey’s caramel apple pie. Both are now a tradition.

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I traditionally start my baking. First, and foremost, is the making of Buckeyes! (Peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar balls dipped in chocolate to resemble the Ohio State symbol, the Buckeye nut.) This has been a tradition with me since…I was a teenager. The recipe makes 9 dozen and between my kids, their friends, and my co-workers there isn’t a one of these left after Christmas!

The next traditional cookie is Chocolate Mint cookies! (That’s them over there.) Here’s the recipe:

CHOCOLATE MINT COOKIES

I received this recipe while working at THE Ohio State University’s L&D unit. It became an instant hit with my family and a staple of every Christmas celebration from that time on.

Ingredients:

¾ cup butter

1 ½ cups firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar

2 TBS. Water

1 package semi sweet chocolate chips

2 large eggs

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp. Baking soda

½ tsp. Salt


Directions:
Green chocolate mint wafers, (Andes). About 1 pound. 

1. Heat butter, sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips, stirring until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large mixer bowl and let stand about 10 minutes until slightly cool.

2. With mister at medium speed, beat eggs in one at a time. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating just until blended. Refrigerate at least one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil. Roll tsp of dough into balls, place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cookies will appear soft. DO NOT COOK ANY LONGER.

4. Remove from oven and immediately place mint on each hot cookie. Let soften, then swirl mint over cookies to frost. (You can use the tip of a spoon or a toothpick.) Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

We also make chocolate chip cookies, replacing the chocolate chips with red and green candies. Peanut Blossom cookies, Coconut Jam Thumbprint cookies, Iced Cookie Cutter Sugar cookies, and if my husband has been especially good, Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies, just for him!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we started our baking and I had two little helpers with me. They help measure and mix. Then one of their jobs, (you can see them concentrating as they work) is to unwrap the mints that go on last. Hopefully, this will become a tradition they’ll pass on to their kids, too!

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So, what is your favorite tradition for the holidays? Your favorite Christmas Cookie? Want to exchange recipes?  

Tradition! Tradition!

by Jo Robertson

Yesterday we attended a triple baptism. Two of our grandchildren and one of their cousins was being baptized and combined their ceremonies. The entire affair got me thinking about traditions and the things we do as families, communities, or friends to bind us together – the ties that bind, so to speak.

This, of course, was a religious ceremony, but our traditions don’t have to revolve around religion. Many traditions are tied to family. I’ve always considered my family my Higher Power. Around sixty people attended the baptism, all but a few of them family members, and although it was quite chaotic, it was also a lot of fun.

One little boy tried to stick his hands in the baptismal font. Babies cried throughout, except for our Emma of course, who behaved perfectly. The piano was notoriously louder than the singers. And all the food at the reception was gone by the time the adults got there! Must’ve been the “other families’” grandchildren.

My son-in-law’s family goes bowling every Thanksgiving Day and they use this opportunity to take an annual family picture since Mark’s sister is a professional photographer and they’re all together. Many of my friends hassle the nightmare that is Black Friday.

You’ve noticed that here in the Lair, we’ve begun to have our own traditions. We celebrate our anniversaries quite uproariously with Sven, the Roman boys, and the Golden Rooster all playing prominent parts. We have a Christmas countdown. Even our invitation to guesting authors is a tradition we enjoy and hope our readers do too.

In The Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: TRADITION!”

What do you readers do to “keep your balance,” especially during the hectic holidays? Do you have rituals, ceremonies or traditions that keep you centered during the year?

Or do you have a favorite holiday recipe you’d like to share with us? Below is one of my favorites for using the left-over turkey and dressing (if you have any!). Thanks to my sis who passed it on to me. Enjoy!

TURKEY DRESSING CASSEROLE

3 cups cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup sour cream

Layer diced turkey in 9×13 pan. Mix soups and sour cream. Spread over turkey. Sprinkle 1 package herb-seasoned stuffing mix over and pour 2 cups chicken broth as needed over dressing. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes and 5 minutes more uncovered.