The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

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As the old Christmas song goes… “it’s the most wonderful time of the year….”

This is a disclaimer before you proceed reading anymore :

I’m gonna get all kinds of nostalgic on you so either buckle up and grab a fresh cup of coffee or abandon your computer for higher ground .

You’ve been warned.

I’ve always loved Christmas but I’m pretty sure my mom and grandparents had a lot to do with making that impression on me.

My memories of childhood were of fun, festivities, and family. Of course there were always lots of delicious baked goods and candies, and everything was always beautifully decorated. Christmas music was on and I remember my mom and grandmother singing along with various songs. There were special table linens and candy/cookie trays that were brought out every year to be filled again.

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Speaking of childhood and vintage. How about a couple pics of yours truly age 17 mos. and 6 years. I look thrilled over that baby which I still have…somewhere.

 

Cookies. Can you say… cookies? Of all the ones to be chosen, the cut out cookies still have my heart. All of those fun Christmas shapes in sugar cookie form … is there anything better? That is one thing today my kids all still love doing. Piling in at the kitchen table and decorating trees, Santas, reindeer, angels, sleighs, snowflakes, gingerbread boys and girls. My mom had tons of cool cutters that I enjoy using as well along with the ones I already had.

The season was steeped in many traditions for me.

As a family we always went together and bought a fresh tree. I’m grateful no one had any issues that kept us from having one because to this day it’s one of my favorite things to go do… pick out the biggest tree I can get my paws on… thank goodness I have 12 ft ceilings now! As a child our ceilings were much shorter so we were limited in the height we could drag home.  This years specimen comes in right around 11 ft and it smells soooo amazing. Some years the fragrance isn’t as strong, this year, beautiful AND fragrant.

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The photo really doesn’t do it justice

 

No, I don’t mind a real tree, and no I don’t mind cleaning up at the end of the season. It’s all worth it to me.

My children are adults now ( good heavens… I can’t believe that sometimes) and they too continue to expect a real tree and the married ones plan to carry on the tradition.

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I love looking into the tree when it’s lights are the only thing on. It’s still magical to me.

 

So we had the tree covered in bright lights ( remember those big C7 lights you could line a run way with?? I do have those on my tree but they are the more modern ones that stay cool and wont burn the tree down) and family decorations, amazing homemade treats, beautifully wrapped packages, family, special meals, worship service and of course the celebration of Jesus birth.

I simply grew up immersed in the beauty of Christmas, and not just the beauty, the magic too. The magic of waiting expectantly for Santa on Christmas Eve and the inability to fall asleep from excitement. My family always worked to make sure that the magic was a part of Christmas.

My mom was such a child at heart about Christmas till the day she left this earth. I’m afraid I’m no different.  I still get excited at Christmas and I have a hard time sleeping sometimes.. only now I’m Santa and my kids and grandbabies get to experience it.

It was a sobering moment to me thinking this year that I’m the only one left to carry on all these traditions that have become precious to me. To pass them on to my children and their families.

Let me say I’m fully aware that Christmas isn’t fun for many, especially when they are acutely aware of loved ones that are missing from their lives.

Nothing brings that loss home more than Christmas time and I can fully speak to that.

In the last 5 years I’ve lost my brother, my mother, and this past year, my dad.  At this time of year there are moments that the pain and anguish strike my heart and spirit  so hard it almost takes my breath away.

I deeply miss my people.

I miss the ones who shared those long ago memories with me. I miss taking out certain decorations or ornaments and reminiscing about them. Oh, I still do on many items as I share stories of various treasures with my kids but they don’t have the memories associated with it.

In this last year I’ve also been busy cleaning out my parents entire house and going through years of….life. It has to be done but there have been so many days it’s been an agonizing road to walk.  There were times I went in with the intent to work and only found myself sobbing on the sofa longing for those I loved to be there again.

However, in the cleaning process I’ve found some beautiful treasures that I have brought home to enjoy and to share with my kids. One thing I finally felt emotionally strong to do was go through the various boxes of carefully wrapped ornaments that had been my mothers and my grandmothers. I tried last year but opening the box that she had last carefully packed away was a bit more than I could handle at the time.

This year, I brought everything out. I laid them all on the table smiling, laughing and sometimes crying looking at all of the years of Christmas treasures in front of me. I pulled precious old ones from the mix, ones of my grandmothers that date back to World War 2.  There were treasured delicate glass ornaments that have always gone at the top of tree to protect them, now in my care to treasure. There were silly ones that for some reason I always loved, like these colored glass balls that had big fake eyes and a foam mustache. When my brother and I moved out my mom gave me a blue one and my brother a red one. Two years ago mine fell from the tree and shattered in a million pieces. Yes, I cried.  Going through my brothers ornaments I came across the red one… somehow it was like an old friend was back as I settled it into a position on my tree.

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He’s old and not fancy, but I love him. As a child I named him Oscar.

 

 

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One of several from my grandmother that date back to World War 2.

 

Speaking of trees….

I realized that one poor tree, no matter how big, reaches a point of holding all the memories of Christmas past.  However, I can have several other trees that are fun or have a theme. Of course my kids might secretly be wondering if I’m turning into a crazy old tree lady… 😉

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I love this little pink tree. It’s fun, whimsical and is my gingerbread/candy tree in my kitchen. I add real colored candy canes to it as well.

 

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The tinsel tree is a new acquisition this year. The tree is new but it’s covered in vintage glass ornaments. The little house in front is actually an old light bulb that my great grandmother used on her tree
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I love the rustic look of all of this. The trunk was a great yard sale find years ago for 15.00. It’s an 1800’s steamer trunk.

 

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I won’t lie. I’m seriously in love with this. I picked up the tiny white tree this year and it’s covered in more vintage glass ornaments. The old wooden coke crate contains many more that were on my grandmothers tree.

 

So many treasures are vintage collectibles now. Not just that, it’s the history they hold as well that means so much to me.

AH! I’m vintage.

Ha well in the life of Christmas decorations when they are up and over 50plus years that’s pretty old. I’m fascinated with the Christmases they have seen and sometimes wonder how they’ve survived so long.

My cardboard Christmas houses, so delicate and fragile and originally only pennies in a dime store are now worth hundreds of dollars depending on the era it came from, style etc.

I am completely enthralled with them. However, my love again, was started as a child when my grandmother would place her little village out with the Barclay skater people. It was one of my most favorite parts of Christmas. I was thrilled when my mother let me have the beat up old village when I found it in the back of the loft long forgotten. I took them home and carefully restored them. It was only when I began digging into their history that I found the ones I grew up with were actually the end of an era of these unique houses. The first ones had been produced in the late 1920’s -early 30’s into the 40’s and 50’s and were last made in the mid 60’s a far cry for the original grandeur they had been crafted in.

Today, I have my grandmothers original set I still put out for that is where my childhood memories are.

But I’ve also carefully collected some beautiful, unique houses by shopping carefully and skillfully on Ebay. There are some I have to look wistfully at and let go as they soar in price zones I won’t participate in.

All of the houses in my collection are  70-80 years old. How they have withstood the test of so many Christmases gone by always amazes me. Some I’ve purchased and carefully done some restoration on. Others, I’ve purchased knowing they will stay “as is” in my collection mainly because the coloring or materials would be impossible to find and replicate now.

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Shhh step into my quiet winter wonderland…

 

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Churches are my favorite pieces. The red windowed one is from the early 1930’s.  The one on end hales from the same era. I’ve collected seven unique ones.

 

I wrote a post on them last Christmas, you can learn more reading “Favorite Things Of Christmas”  https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2015/12/22/favorite-things-of-christmas/

I guess I should say for a more modern, trendy girl, I absolutely love and adore vintage Christmas. The new cheap modern day stuff doesn’t have the same appeal to me. I think though, it’s more because my heart is connected to the times gone by with the old items from the past.

But life moves forward, and memories are sweet and dear and keep us connected to those we’ve loved and have been privileged to share the journey of life with. As I’ve decorated this year it has been a sweet treat to incorporate so many things from the past that are old and beautiful with newer things I’ve collected with my family over these past years.

I love being able to create a magical, special season for my family like I knew growing up. It blesses me that they appreciate it so much and enjoy being there. I want them to have memories of special times and special things that they can share with their children.

Traditions. Simple or elaborate I want them to have the history of traditions.

But Christmas is so much more. It’s a time in the year when we should be more mindful than ever of peace, love, and joy. To be mindful of those we hold dear and the treasure that they are to us.  To give those gifts freely and generously back to them.  To embrace some of the simplicity of the season and not be swooped up in the commercial money train it has become.  To enjoy the presence of each other because that isn’t always granted to us.

I hope that you make your own traditions with those you love. I hope you value and embrace the simple things that make Christmas so beautiful and magical. I pray you know the peace and joy that this season is about and that it stays with you all year long.

As I’m concluding this post, and thinking of peace, I can’t help but mention it has been snowing here now for over an hour. I’ve watched big white fluffy flakes tumble from the sky and blow through the air, silently beautiful, peaceful.

It’s kind of a big deal for a girl who lives in south Texas… we rarely ever see snow.

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Do you wanna build a snowman? My adult sons crafted this big guy.

 

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Oh my! Did we get some snow! How beautiful is this?? Our first real snow since 1985. What an exciting day and night it turned into! A bit of a white Christmas for us.

 

 

It’s peaceful and quiet… it’s been reflective for me. I pray you know and experience all of the things that matter most in this Christmas season and that you have eyes of a child to still appreciate the magic and a spirit that receives the peace and hope of the Christ child.

Do you have special traditions or things that make Christmas magical to you? What are your favorite childhood memories?

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Holidays, Traditions And Memories

It’s that time of year when I find myself in my pantry taking inventory. No, I’m not  extremely obsessed with what’s in there or making sure no one has found my hidden stash of chocolate ( admit it, you have a stash too 😉

It’s honestly to check out what baking ingredients I have or still need before I get ready to start all of my Christmas baking and candy making for the season.

We just wrapped up Thanksgiving where I  made a variety of pies and an amazing Pecan Pumpkin cheesecake.

Christmas will be all kinds of cookies, some new recipes, but mostly old, tried and true ones that have been in my family for awhile that everyone looks forward to.

For me, the traditions of the season mean as much as anything else to me. I love that my kids have been raised with certain things that as adults, are now traditions to them. My son is now interested in carrying on similar traditions with his children.

Last week I was whipping up some pumpkin pies, using a batter bowl that had been my grandmothers. She has been gone since 1994, but I know that piece from my childhood, remember her using it.

 

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When she passed away, my mom naturally inherited all of her things. She stashed the “old” dishes away saying she had seen them her entire life and wanted to use different  dishes.

When my mom passed away two years ago, the task fell on me to begin sorting through items in her house. Of course the first things I brought home were some of my grandmothers now “old” dishes.

Now long worn with wear, sporting some chips and an occasional crack, to me they reflect life, use, and the service to family. They reflect a time gone by. Family who is no longer with me today. Memories. Traditions. Shared experiences. Life.

Using these items somehow makes me feel more connected to my mom and grandmother.

I will admit, this time of year, from about October thru the New Year is hard for me since my Mom loved the entire “holiday” season. She loved the baking and freely shared her talents with so many people. She worked so hard to make the holidays enjoyable not just for her family, but those she encountered in her daily life.  I miss her plotting and planning with me for our big family meals, her festively wrapped packages, and childlike enthusiasm for the season.

Being in the kitchen is just a way I feel connected to her during this time. Using dishes that have been passed along are just a soft touch for me to keep my Mom, grandmother, and memories alive in my mind.

It’s my hope to share, teach and inspire the young women in my family to carry on the traditions for upcoming years and generations for their families.

What traditions do you have in your family during the holidays? Have you started new ones or do you carry on ones that have been in your family for a long time?

Below you’ll find the traditional pumpkin pie recipe I use each year.  Enjoy!

(1) 9 inch pie crust. ( homemade or a defrosted all ready crust)

2 eggs, lightly beaten, (1) can 15oz. Solid packed pumpkin, 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, (1) can 12 oz. undiluted evaporated milk

Prepare pie crust, mix filling ingredients in order listed. Pour into crust. Bake in preheated 425 oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350. Bake an additional 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. If necessary cover edge of crust with foil to prevent burning.

Cool and garnish as desired.

 

 

Thanksgiving And Norman Rockwell Expectations

In just a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Let’s just call it a day full of food, family, friends and football.

And pie.

But pie doesn’t tie in to my cute list of “F” items 😉

But yesssss… pie.

I do plot and plan a week out, make my list and check it twice ( oops wrong holiday) and preparations are in full swing the  Wednesday beforehand ( someone’s gotta make all those pies!)

Anyway, without fail, every year I find myself admiring the magazines with the full color , glossy beautiful spread of festive Thanksgiving tables.

The perfect china. The spotless glassware. The glistening silver. The without fail amazing centerpiece crowning the table.

The entire, whole, perfectly browned turkey on the platter with lovely garnishes all around it waiting to have the matching cutting knife and fork taken to it.

 

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My turkey will never look like this…..

 

 

All that’s missing is the family in a perfect matching ensemble seated expectantly around the table.

And all I can think is…. “For Real?”

Oh, it seems so ideally perfect and lovely. You know… “Norman Rockwell’ish”.

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Are those stalks of celery on the plate???

 

 

I’ve had late night fantasies about it…. fantasies…. ’cause no matter what my intentions are I know that it will just never unfold.

Our Thanksgivings tend to be on the more ordinary bend and look a bit like this…

By that I mean, I’m happy if I have enough chairs to squeeze everyone around the table and wonder if there are gonna be enough dinner forks or do I need to break out the salad forks ?

I really want to have a super cool table centerpiece, but, well on years I’ve had something  clever it gets moved to make room for …you know.. the food.

The coffee is happily brewing but it’s not served in china cups.. my coffee mug collection has become a bit more eclectic over time.. kinda like me 😉

I usually have the turkey cut, wrapped and waiting, while attempting to keep my sons from grazing off of it.

My roomy kitchen starts to feel small as people arrive and hang out there.. I attempt to hold on to my organization of how things are running…

Football is already on, and the men in my family want it at levels to simulate being in a crowded stadium with 100,000 people.

It’s guaranteed I’m tripping over a dog who’s hoping I make a fatal move with some food that will land on the floor and they will be the clean up crew for it.

I’m trying to keep an eye on everything cooking on the stove, trying to remember what’s in ‘fridge that needs to go to table ( nothing like finding a dish or two still in there afterwards 😛 )

Somewhere in the midst of cooking and wrangling people, I’ve made an attempt to look somewhat put together and cute for the day. Given it’s usually warm on Thanksgiving it could mean I’m in shorts… sigh… no cute sweaters..

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I have a million thoughts running through my head one of which is… “If I eat a piece of pie now, will anyone know?” haha

Somehow though, it all comes together.

The food all makes it to the table, it’s still mostly hot, everyone has a seat and a fork 😉

it’s often loud, crazy, and a bit chaotic. The football game has been (temporarily) quieted  and I am grateful to finally sit down and enjoy the fruit of my labor.

My Thanksgivings might not look like the glossy pages from holiday magazine. But as everyone quiets down and we join hands and bow our head to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve been given and the plentiful amount of food before us I’m reminded again, it’s not in the trappings or how perfect I want everything to be that matters.

No. That’s not it at all.

It’s each and every person gathered around the table that matters and makes it meaningful to me, they are the gifts that I am most thankful for and grateful to have gathered  with me.

That to me, is the deepest meaning of Thanksgiving.  No matter where you are on our big planet, I hope you take a moment to give thanks for the blessings you have and the people who bless you, for that is what matters most in life.

 

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Pumpkin Spice And Everything Nice

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October. I’m in denial. I know it’s technically fall, but living in south Texas and continuing to rock shorts and tanks on any given day… it’s hard to get into that warm, cozy “fall” feeling…. leggings, sweaters and boots seem far away…..

Add to that the commercial Christmas bus will be barreling down on us shortly…. but…… let’s address another big hyped thing that occurs with the beginning of Fall and all things cozy….

Yes… pumpkin spice everything.

Of course among all of the orange and spicy offerings it’s not officially Fall till Starbucks launches their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Now I’m not a huge fan as I find those drinks to be entirely to sweet and all I think about is the zillions of calories and crazy amounts of sugar they contain…. and really I almost always just prefer my bold, black coffee… and… I don’t wear yoga pants and Uggs  😉

Now I’m not bashing the entire pumpkin thing. Not at all.  I happen to like a lot of tasty offerings… my mom made an amazing pumpkin bread and I make pumpkin spice cookies that will make you drool.

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There is something about the combo of pumpkin and those spices that feels… homey and comforting and all things relaxed.

Right ? Can I get a raised Pumpkin Spice Latte in salute??

Maybe that’s what it is. After a long summer we’re ready to shift gears into a new change of seasons. We want to embrace crisp cool mornings,bulky sweaters and yes, cute boots. 😉 And what better way than a drink or special food that feels like those things ?

I found a couple items this week in my contribution to all things Fall and wonderful….

Chobani has launched another limited edition flavor in, yes you guessed it, pumpkin spice. I had my first yesterday ( I always buy one of a new flavor incase I hate it and it makes me gag 😉 I love Chobani’s Greek yogurt as I find it lower in sugar and the texture can’t be beat. My favorite “go-to” is the coconut one. But I can easily be swayed away when there’s a new kid on the block.

Ok… I loved it from first taste. It was like… creamy pumpkin pie in a cup. The spices were perfect. As mentioned, I bought one. Today, this is what’s in my ‘fridge 😉

20151002_201414The other item I found was this….

20151002_201519I’m thinking warmed with a little cream cheese….  they could be rather delicious 😉

You don’t have to look to far and wide to find there are lots of products being offered up right now if Pumpkin Spice is your big thing….

pumpkinOhhhh…. maybe the spiced cream cheese for the bagels ?? I’m not sure about the chips though.

What about you ? Do you look forward to Pumpkin Spice season ? Do you have favor things you anticipate ?