WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON--you can't really touch it or see it...but it's there!
by Virginia Campbell
What I love most about the holidays is that very special lightness of heart, a feeling that dreams will come true, and the child-like awe of the real magic of Christmas. It's not something that you can touch...but it definitely touches you! I still believe in the Christmas Story. I still leave cookies and milk for Santa. I still love Christmas music, and I still sing Christmas songs...loudly, badly, and with great gusto! I also love the smell of the holidays...greenery, bayberry, peppermint, hot chocolate, fresh frosty air, gingerbread and cookies!
My grandfather loved the holidays more than all the rest of my family put together. He came from a close-knit, loving family unit. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had a lot of heart, and he had a happy childhood. He was a Christmas Tree Expert Extraordinaire! He also loved all the foods of the holidays, and every year he would ask me to make Spritz Cookies. I can't tell you how many of those little butter cookies we ate, but they were as much fun to make as they were to eat!
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated white or brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring
colored decorating sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine flour and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla (or other flavoring), and if desired, food coloring. Gradually add flour/salt while mixer is running on low speed. Pack dough into a cookie press following manufacturer's instructions (or put into a pastry bag fitted with a large star shaped tip). Press mixture onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Top with sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, depending upon cookie size.
My grandmother, "the greatest cook ever," used to make delicious snow ice cream. Fresh clean snow (yes, it was cleaner in the "good olde days"), whole milk or cream, sugar, and vanilla. For some reason, I crave ice cream in the Winter--maybe because of Gran's "Snow Cream." One of my mother's favorite holiday treats from her childhood was "boiled custard" (which you must not allow to boil). A rich, cooked drink similar to eggnog, boiled custard is actually a custard which is thin enough to drink from a cup. My grandmother used to make it and pour it into glass jars which she would set down outside in the snow to cool. Mom and her brother and sister would drink it outside straight from the jar and then get "switched" by Gran for stealing the family treat!
Fresh Snow Ice Cream
1 small pkg. regular (not instant) vanilla pudding mix
1 cup sugar
1 pint cream
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 to 2 gallons fresh, clean snow
In an extra-large, heavy mixing bowl, combine pudding mix and sugar. Stir in milk and blend until dry ingredients are dissolved. Blend in cream, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Cover and chill until ready to serve ice cream. To make ice cream: Stir mixture well and add in enough snow to make desired consistency. Do not over-stir. Serve immediately.
Rich Boiled Custard
1 pint whole milk
1 pint cream
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Into the lower pot of a double boiler, bring water to a medium boil. In the upper pot, add milk and cream. Heat through over medium heat. Beat eggs together until light. Add sugar and mix well. Pour a small portion of hot milk mixture into the eggs and sugar to warm and thin this portion. Pour slowly into hot milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until it will coat a spoon. Do not over cook or mixture will become too thick. Stir in vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator before serving.
My mom and I both loved all-out, over-the-top, sing-your-heart-out Christmas music. We had a tradition of loading up our dogs in the car one night each holiday season to go see the Christmas lights throughout the area. Mom and I would sing holiday songs at the top of our voices, and the dogs were a captive audience. We always ended the evening with a trip to the ice cream store! Mom got eggnog ice cream; I got peppermint candy cane ice cream, and the dogs got vanilla! By the way, occasionally our singing did set the dogs off, and then there was howling and singing. Occasionally, my cats will join in the merriment at home!
I wish you all the very happiest of holiday seasons! I’d love to hear your favorite holiday traditions and funny stories! I absolutely adore Christmas music, even if some of it does make me cry!
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