Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 20 Christmas Parties Curing Laryngitis

Holiday parties, a neighborhood open house, buffets – all these take place in abundance during Christmastime. Do you throw a party each year or did your family throw parties around Christmas? Any special theme like Ugly Christmas Sweater or perhaps a gift wrapping or cookie decorating party?
The year we got married, Dave and I hosted an open house in our tiny apartment.  We lived on the second floor of an old farmhouse in a fairly rural area.  We invited everyone we knew.  Rather than an open bar, we elected to serve punch and hors d'oeuvres.  

After consulting his Mr Boston book, Dave selected a recipe to use and went off to the liquor store for the ingredients. These included red wine, brandy, rum, and champagne.  Oranges and lemon juice added some extra flavor along with simple syrup and soda water.  The punch made 42 servings.

 We combined all the ingredients in a punch bowl and added an ice ring to chill the punch.  The kitchen table (the only table we had) held the punch bowl along with the hors d'oeuvres.  In those years the hors d'oeuvres consisted of little square slices of rye bread called party rye with liver sausage of smoked sausage on top, cheese logs and crackers, chips and dips, and possibly mini-meatballs in cocktail sauce.

Dave's mother had a history of getting laryngitis every winter and it lasted for months.  She was one of the guests at the party and enjoyed the punch along with the rest of us.  
As the day grew longer, we realized that Wanda's voice was getting stronger,  Slowly but surely her laryngitis was leaving!  By the end of the evening the laryngitis had totally disappeared.  In following years when the laryngitis threatened, we would suggest recreating the punch.  The threat alone did the job of curing the laryngitis.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Book of Me, Written By You - Prompt 15 SNOW

"The Book of Me, Written By You" is a GeneaBloggers project created by Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog. The concept: a series of blogging and writing prompts that help family historians capture their own memories and write about themselves.

This week’s prompt is Snow
    •    Do you live in area where you routinely have snow?
    •    How old were you when you first saw snow? 
    •    Do you remember it? 
    ◦    Did you make snowmen? 
    ◦    Throw Snowballs?
    ◦    Sledge Rides?
    •    What is the image that first came to mind when you read snow?
    •    What does snow
    ◦    feel like,
    ◦    smell like
    •    How do you see snow? 

Before moving to Texas, I have only ever lived in one place that did not routinely have snow.  The first fifty years of my life were spent in Northern Illinois.  Snow is always part of the picture there.  My first winter was spent in Adrian, Michigan where I am told I took naps on the front porch in the buggy.  That is when I probably saw snow for the first time, although I don't remember it.

We lived a block from a park which featured a wonderful hill for sledding!  Many winter days were spent pulling the sled up the hill only to race back down again!
At the top of the hill was a warming house with restrooms and concessions that were open on weekends and evenings.  Since we lived so close, we rarely used the concession stand.  If one went straight through the warming house and out the other side, there was a skating rink.  As a "tween", before tweens existed, I used to go skating there until 9pm most evenings.  It was the winter hang out place for most of the junior high kids.

The front yard of our house usually had a snowman or three in various stages of construction or deconstruction as well as a wall we huddled behind for protection during snowball wars.

After mom moved to Florida,  there was not as much winter fun except for the time my youngest brother brought his Florida born fiancee up North for Christmas.  Dave and I lived in Kaneville at the time and it was our turn to host the family Christmas party.  Dinner was served in out basement since the number of guests required the use of three banquet tables.  After dinner and assorted amusements, the guests began to leave.  As they ventured to their cars we found it was snowing big, fat, wet, heavy snowflakes.  Now it was time for snowball fights, and making snow angels! Imagine the spectacle of five couples in their 30s and 40s along with their assorted children scampering in the snow.  The neighbors loved it and of course we told my brother's fiancee it was arranged just for her!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 9 Crafts for Christmas

9 December – Christmas Crafts

There’s a movement towards making items for Christmas gifts or even for Christmas decorating. Have you ever made something by hand related to Christmas? What was the item, how was it made and what did you do with the finished product? What about other family members – was or is there anyone who excels at hand-crafted items and giving them as gifts during Christmas?
I think we have always had some kind of craft involved in our Christmases.  Two of the earliest ones I remember were made by two of my aunts.  Aunt Paul made a taper candle into a tree by layering a series of stars in graduated sizes on the candle.  The stars were made by using a pinking shears (creates a zig-zag edge) on a very stiff gauze type of material.  The tips of the stars were then decorated with various colored foil stars.  It was lovingly packed away every year and happily re-assembled the following year.


Aunt Ruth's treasured craft barely survived the season.  It was a wreath made of wrapped candies attached to a wire wreath form made from a hanger.  At the top of the wreath was a bow which also held a scissors suspended on a ribbon.  Friends were invited to use the scissors to detach a piece of candy.

Over the years several of our Christmas grab-bags have included the requirement that it be a handcrafted gift.  Some of the gifts over the years have included a standing fish wine bottle holder, etched beer steins with the family monogram,

 a fish shaped clock, (living in Florida there were several fisherman) a Seminole pattern quilted pillow in red and white( to match the recipient's decor) There was also a wire tree shape with wooden leaves to be labeled with family names and attached to the tree.

Sometimes the gift wrap itself could hold crafty treasures.  We still have the crocheted bells my mother-in-law used to wrap packages over 40 years ago.  There were also various hand crafted ornaments attached to packages.

Table decor could be crafty as there could be sleigh nut cups made from egg cartons with pipe cleaner runners or felt mittens with names written in glitter.  Some of the centerpieces over the years have included gum drop trees and gingerbread houses.  One year I made a tree by slicing spearment leaves vertically and attaching them to a styrofoam cone with toothpicks.  The base was a one and one half styrofoam disk covered with peppermint stick candies.  The tree also had ornaments made from gumdrops.  Actually I made two of them and gave one to a neighbor with a five year old.  My grands started making gingerbread houses about ten years ago in Germany.  The very first ones used graham crackers anchored to a one pound butter box with frosting.  Eventually they advanced to the full size Wilton kits and have now downsized to the cottages.  One year my father-in-law made individual star candles for everyone with their names on them as dinner place-cards.  Those were treasured for years.
google images
google images

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 8 Christmas Shopping

Today’s blog prompt is:Christmas Shopping: For many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors? Tell us about how you do Christmas shopping and your memories of Christmases past.
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I tend to concentrate my shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When I was younger, the stores were only open until 9pm on Monday and Thursday evenings and rarely, if ever, open on Sunday.  Shopping was usually done on a Saturday or right after work.

My shopping habits have changed over time.  My husband and I used to take the kids to the mall and out for lunch on the day after Thanksgiving. (Before Black Friday!)  The mall we went to had a special place for children to shop independently.  We would get almost all of out shopping done on that day.  My family drew names for Christmas so that somewhat limited the number of gifts to buy.

Several years ago my daughter and I did brave the cold and the crowds to do the midnight  Black Friday sales.  We only did it once!  In addition to encouraging over-spending, it just didn't seem worth the effort.  Now I tend to try to avoid shopping on weekends and shop during the week.  Each year I seem to do more shopping on the internet as it saves time and travel costs.  I especially like the free shipping.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

From Dad to Tom

This is a belated birthday gift for my brother Tom,  
but I am publishing it as a gift to othe family members who would like to know more about Donald G Hansen, the author.  The man I call Dad!

December 6, 1943
It was on the afternoon of December sixth,
That the arrival of Thomas Michael had been fixed.
But too far ahead of the story I am getting you see,
For I had meant to tell it just as it happened to be.

It was a cold morning, one of dark skies and light rain,
The only thing we thought important was Connery departure by train.
Momsie and Pops were going to Florida to see Ellie you know,
They also had in mind the sun so hot and the lack of cold snow.

I arrived home from work about a quarter to ten,
The reason being , it was raining again.
Betty was in the basement doing her wash in her machine so fine,
I went down to give her a hand, especially with the things that were mine.
All of a sudden she said, “Don, I don’t feel so well.”
I said “darling, come upstairs and sit down for a spell”.
We went upstairs and decided after all
To give Doc Carey the long awaited call.

I said Betty to 4140 I must go to say good by,
Because we have many things to do and time will fly.
After telling Ma and Pa good by, and to have a nice trip,
Down Washington Blvd. I met Doc Carey and his black grip.
I said, “Doc, old boy, from your office don’t stay away,
As my loving wife will be your patient today.”
I then called Pauline, who was sweet to say,
That she would stay with Donna til later that day.
Betty and I then in my car started West,
To complete the doings for the things we were blessed.
After arriving at the Hospital, and starting Betty on the way,
Up and down the hall I wandered with my large chest on display.

After waiting for about an hour out there in the cold hall,
Over the loud speaker system my name they did call.
Into the delivery room I then dashed like a kid,
For I was anxious to see just how good a job we did.

Betty was happy to hear it was a boy,
But there was no holding me, overloaded with joy.
Betty looked fine, although tired and weak,
It was at this time I decided things no longer looked bleak.
I then ran to the phone and started my calls of pride.
It seems you just want all to know your son’s at your side.

The first I did call was my mother, who was on the job in our home,
But it seems that there was no answer, now why should mother roam.
Dorothy then heard from me that it was a boy,
Congratulations to both of you, we shall share your joy.

Then I called Pauline, I was still bursting with pride.
I asked her to tell the others before their long ride.
Back in the room with Betty, things were peacefull and quiet.
We both just relaxed, there was no longer a riot.
After sitting there talking, we decided the name should then be,
Thomas Michael Hansen sounded plenty good to Betty and me.
It is no growing late so the door I must close,

Leaving Betty and Tommy in a sleepy repose.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 6 Saint Nicholas

Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others?

photo credit:
St Nicholas Day was a very big deal when I was growing up.  It was also my brother's birthday.  Since we were of German heritage, we followed the custom of putting our shoes by the front door on the evening of December 5 in the hope that they would be filled the next morning.  As I remember it, if we (children) remembered to put the shoes by the door, they were filled in the morning.  The shoes had some nuts, an orange or tangerine and some hard candies.  This provided an exciting prelude to the big event of Christmas which was still to come.  

In the weeks between St Nicholas Day and Christmas we were encouraged to have good behavior.  Mom and Dad would spy Santa's elves peeking in a window or from behind a door.  This definitely encouraged good behavior since no one wanted the lump of coal representing bad behavior!  I've lately wondered if this was the foreshadowing of the "Elf on the Shelf" tradition. 

Paddy O'Cinnamon
image courtesy of the website 

 There was also the tradition of listening to the "Adventures of Paddy O'Cinnamon"  aka the Cinnamon Bear at 5:30 weekday evenings on the kitchen radio.  I think we each had our own visual of Jimmy, Judy, and Paddy.  It is still available on mp3s.

On Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one gift befor going to bed,  This was usually new pajamas from our Aunt Pauline and Uncle Bill.  Since there were always wee ones around Christmas Morning came very early in the day.  When we came downstairs the living room was a feast for the eyes with gifts spread out all around the room.  Santa left each child's gifts in a separate spot.  With nine children in the house you can imagine what the living room looked like. There were always dolls and cars, trains, or blocks.

As my children were growing up, we also celebrated St Nicholas Day although my kids thought snowmobile boots were a suitable substitute for their shoes!

I used to save the toys from cereal boxes to add to the "Loot".  Some times there were some gold foil wrapped coins too!

My daughter and her husband added wrapped Santa presents to the other traditions.  They began celebrating St Nicholas Day with their kids when they lived in Germany although it is a different celebration there.  In Germany, St Nicholas Day is when the gifts are given and Christmas is a day reserved as a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Currently the day is still a celebration of the birth of Christ and the gifts are opened after attending Mass.