Christmas Carolers

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Last Saturday evening at about 8:30 PM, my oldest daughter and I were watching Christmas Vacation on television when I heard my doorbell ring.  It’s very unusual for anyone to come to my door after dark, so I went cautiously to open it and before me stood my youngest daughter with her two children, singing at the top of their lungs.  First they sang a song for their aunt which consistently irritates her, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,  and then gave a very solemn rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing.   Granddaughter kept her eyes on her self-made carol book.   She knows the hippo  song all too well but has to follow her brother’s lead on the carol.

I gave each of the kids a small bag of candy and they headed back home where they planned to ring their own doorbell and give their Dad a surprise caroling party. 

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Grandparents’ Day….and Hollandaise Sauce

My two youngest grandchildren, known here as Jellyfish (age 9) and Dolphin (age 5) have always been encouraged by their mother to remember me on Grandparents’ Day.  Yesterday I received a mug with their pictures to join 9 others in my collection.

As soon as they were able to draw, write or color, they have also given me something they made themselves.  This year, Jellyfish spent many hours printing and coloring detailed information sheets about dinosaurs.

Dolphin also drew a dinosaur and made a special card.

Both of them made up a booklet, “My Grandmother”, with lines to fill in with information on where I live, what I like and what we like to do together.  The page about my real name turned out fine with Jellyfish’s “Lillian” but a little odd with Dolphin’s “Owl”.

I like to have Sunday dinner at home, so as usual I fixed dinner for everybody.  Along with roast beef, mashed potatoes,carrots and homemade yeast rolls,  I steamed some asparaus and served it with this delicious Mock Hollandaise Sauce which is much friendlier fat and cholesterol-wise.

MOCK HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

  • Servings: One cup of sauce
  • Print

  • One 3 oz. package low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • dash salt
  • 1/4 cup melted low-fat margarine

Blend together by hand or in a food processor.  To warm, heat in microwave oven for about 30-45 seconds.

Yield:  One cup of sauce 

I have a note in my recipe binder:  “From Southern Sideboards cookbook.  Made for Mother’s Day 1994 to serve with our homegrown asparagus.  Very rich and smooth – easy to heat up.”

Last-Day-of-School Dresses

When I was going to school in the 1930s and 40s, the last day of school was in mid-June.  I always associate the day in Cincinnati with very hot weather, tiger lilies blooming, and my mother making me a “last-day-of-school dress”.   In the first grade (above), the dress was yellow silk with accordion pleated skirt and brown bows.  It was a beautiful dress and all the little girls in my class gathered around me to touch and admire the silky smoothness – before World War II when silk was a common commodity in dress-up clothes.

In 1942, Mother made a more grown-up dress of a beautiful light blue fabric.  She often made a dress of the same fabric for my little sister and we’re shown here with my cousin, Dixie, just after her First Communion.

 

In the sixth grade, my sister and I had dresses of a lovely blue voile.  We had just moved from downtown Cincinnati to the East End area where there were small well-kept houses with Victory Gardens.

I graduated from the 8th grade in 1945 and Mother made a beautiful white outfit with a flared skirt and eyelet top.  It was the fashion in our school that year to wear white socks with white sandals.

 

In 1946, I was finishing up my freshman year at Withrow High School, a prestigious school at that time where my classmates were way higher economically than I was.  As you can see, I was very unhappy with my dress that year.  This was very unusual for me – I normally wore anything Mother lay out for me with no complaints, but this dress was of a matronly rayon-type fabric and all the girls in my upscale school were wearing sleeveless pastel shirtwaist dresses to class.  I knew I was going to look completely out of style in my grandma-goes-to-church dress.  In spite of my scowl, I wore the dress to pick up my report card and found that the stylish girls were all in shorts and casual clothes, ready to take off for swimming pools and tennis courts, and paid no attention to me at all.

 

Mother always talked about her favorite last-day-of-school dress which she described as being so beautiful.  After she passed away, I found this picture of her and understood better why she made me such a matronly, out-of-style dress.  It looked a lot like her favorite.

I felt bad that I had disappointed Mother by not liking the dress, but apparently I made an impression  because she never made another one like that for me.  For my senior class day at Withrow, she made my sister and me these beautiful light blue dotted Swiss dresses which we both loved.

I don’t believe the tradition of last-day-of-school dresses was active in my era (except for my mother) and it certainly wasn’t alive for my daughters or now for my granddaughters and great-granddaughter.  Pity.

Dolphin Goes to the Park

Our local township park has several big play areas for kids, but granddaughter Dolphin’s favorite spot is a small lot that has a tire swing…..

….a wooden mountain to climb….

…a nice, slick slide….

….all guaranteed to make a child SMILE.

Dolphin Bakes Valentine Cookies

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Granddaughter Dolphin (4-1/2) came for her weekly visit and she made some beautiful Valentine cookies.  While I started the mixer for our old standby recipe for butter crisps, she waded through my big copper breadbox of vintage cookie cutters.  She came up with three heart-shaped cutters and was soon rolling out dough and cutting cookies.

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I helped her get the cookies onto a baking sheet and she was able to paint with an egg wash and decorate without any help from me this time.  She was very discreet with the colored sugar and didn’t have mounds of the stuff on the cookies as she and her brother have done in the past.

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She brought four buddies along with her – a stuffed cat named Ruby and 3 giraffes, all named Buford after the famous Civil War general and bought in Gettysburg.

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The cookies were beautiful little Valentines when they were finished and Dolphin was very proud.  She ate just one and took the rest home to her parents and big brother.

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Valentine’s Day in the 1940s

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In the 1930s-40s, I lived in downtown Cincinnati and attended old Raschig School on Central Parkway.  In those days, Valentine’s Day was a major holiday in school.  A week ahead of time, the teacher brought in a big cardboard box which we decorated with cutout hearts and bits of paper lace doilies.  A slot was cut in the top and we were encouraged to bring a Valentine for each person in class and put it in the box, waiting for the big day.  The Valentines were “penny Valentines” and probably cost less than a penny apiece in those depression-World War II days.

Then on February 14, it was time to get the Valentines out of the box and distributed to the class.  A boy was chosen to be mailman (never a girl!), outfitted with a paper hat and mailbag.

In 1993, I wanted to make a Valentine for family members and did a sketch of the scene, incorporating my memories of two boys in my class.  Rollo was the only black boy in the class, always well dressed in knickers and argyle socks.  Otto was from the poorest part of the school district and seemed always to be a little grungy with a sole-flapping shoe.  I was a proper little girl with waist length finger curls and a dress made by my mother.  In 1993, I didn’t have a color printer and printed the cards in black and white, then hand watercolored each one.

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Imagine my surprise when about 10 years later, my oldest daughtergave me a Valentine gift of my sketch in redwork.  I had just started quilting at that time and put together a wall hanging with the redwork as the centerpiece.

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The dress on the card was actually a black and white check which my mother later made into a doll dress.  I took a picture of the fabric and printed it in a nine-patch to use as two of the blocks…..

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I also printed fabric blocks with vintage pictures of myself and old Raschig School to add to the history.  I wish I had pictures of Rollo and Otto, but they didn’t take class pictures at our school in those days.

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When I see my grandchildren laboriously writing their names on their little Valentines to take to school and pre-school, I remember musty old Raschig and all the fun of Valentine’s Day.

The Grandkids Bake Christmas Cookies

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When my children were growing up, I don’t recall their ever being interested in helping with the cookie baking and I didn’t have the time or ingredients to waste, so I just made the cookies myself without any help from them.  When my grandchildren started arriving in the 1980s, though, I thought it would be nice to have them come to the house, starting when they were about 3 years old, to make Christmas cookies.  Granddaughter #1 loved mixing the dough, using all the different cutters, and decorating with sugar.

She is now married with two children and her husband is in Iraq this Christmas.

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Grandson #1 joined his sister when he turned 3, and his specialty was piling lots of sugar on the cookies and cracking the eggs to mix in the batter.

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Granddaughter #2 made it a threesome and her favorite cookies are still the cutout Butter Crisps. She has two children who are too young to help her with baking, but the 2-1/2 year old likes the cookies, too.

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There was a hiatus of a few years between when the older grandchildren grew up and before the youngest came along.  This year, Dolphin and Jellyfish came to do their best  and Jellyfish takes it all very seriously.

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Dolphin is also serious about her baking but takes a more fun approach.

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All of the kids have enjoyed the baking but most of all, enjoyed taking home plates of their own creations.

Here is a gingerbread cookie that the older grandchildren liked to make.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream sugar, shortening and molasses until smooth.  Blend in egg.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Add to creamed mixture and blend well.  Form into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate dough at least one hour.

Roll out dough on floured board 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.  Cut out with floured cutters.  Place cookies 1/2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 

Granddaughter Dolphin Bakes Cookies

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Since we got our first major snowfall of the year yesterday, I wasn’t sure 4-year-old granddaughter Dolphin would be here for her weekly Wednesday visit, but here she came, all bundled up in pink coat and boots, ready to make Christmas cookies.

I brought out my big copper breadbox filled with all kinds of cookie cutters and it was a hard decision to narrow the choice down to 7 or 8 cutters.  She picked them out, though, and I don’t believe any of them were Christmas cutters, but the colored sugar would make a Christmas cookie out of any design.

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With the older grandchildren (now in college and beyond) the best part was mixing the cookies, especially breaking the eggs, but the two youngest grandchildren, Dolphin and her brother Jellyfish, are somewhat squeamish about getting stuff on their hands so I normally have the dough ready for rolling and cutting when they get here.  This time, though, Dolphin wanted to make the cookies from scratch and did all of the measuring, pouring and mixing.

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She did a good job rolling out the dough, asking every few seconds, “Is this good enough?” until she had the cookies cut out and on the sheet.

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Then came the fun of using all the sugar and decorations she wanted – and she used a lot, as the grandchildren always do.

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When the cookies were finished, she was extremely proud and only ate a portion of one pony, saving the rest for her mom and dad and for Jellyfish when he got off the school bus.

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Here is the recipe the grandchildren have been using for about 25 years.  It’s the favorite Christmas cookie of my son-in-law and one older granddaughter and they both like the cookies cut rather thick and barely golden around the edges.  I personally like the cookies rolled very thin and baked to a crisp brown.  The baking time and the yield will depend on how you like your cookies.

GRANDMA'S BUTTER CRISPS

  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
  • Print

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup softened margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In mixer bowl, blend flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Mix in butter and margarine.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla over the flour mixture. Blend well and form into a ball.

Roll out 1/3 of dough at a time to desired thickness on floured board.  Cut with floured cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets, an inch apart.  Brush with remaining egg and sprinkle with colored sugar.  Bake @ 375 degrees F 5-8 minutes for thin cookies, several minutes more for thicker cookies to a golden brown. 

Jellyfish and Dolphin Have a Party

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My two youngest grandchildren, ages 8 and 4, love the aquarium.  Their mother bought season passes for all of us to go to the Newport Aquarium as often as we like.  The 8-year-old grandson gave aquarium-type names to all of us.  He is Jellyfish, his little sister is Dolphin, his mother is Shark, his dad is Barracuda, his aunt is Pufferfish, and I am Hammerhead (Shark). 

Yesterday, I was watching the two kids, confined in a small bedroom, while Jellyfish read excerpts from a book on the most dangerous sharks.  For a third-grader, he amazes me with his ability to read complicated words, to understand them and to remember them.  At the end of each of the segments, Dolphin wound up a mermaid music box and Jellyfish jumped to his feet, saying he couldn’t resist the music.  The two of them did a wild, crazy dance all around the floor, with Jellyfish doing all his famous “cool moves”.  The music ended and Jellyfish went back to reading everything anyone would ever want to know about sharks.  Then the music started again and they both went dancing around the small room. 

When it was about time for his mother to come home and all of the book had been read, Jellyfish proclaimed it the best party he had ever attended.  Dolphin and Hammerhead agreed.