Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ho Ho Snow! (Or The Little House Christmas)

Remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder book where they had the big snowstorm and Pa had to tie a rope from the house to the barn so he wouldn't get lost when he went out to feed the animals?

Well, it wasn't quite that bad. No livestock were involved.

We left a little early for the annual holiday roadtrip because a snowstorm was about to hit. We drove through some serious fog and arrived at my parents' house in Nebraska on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, we woke up to a lot of ice. By Wednesday afternoon, it was starting to snow. It snowed on Thursday. It snowed on Friday. And it was still snowing on Saturday morning. All in all, we got more than 20 inches of the white stuff and then, because that wasn't enjoyable enough, the wind came up and created drifts of snow that stopped travelers in their tracks.

The downtime was good. After all, when was the last time you had six days dedicated to family? We played a lot of SkipBo and Clue (Colonel Mustard did it, in the Billiard Room, with the lead pipe.) The husband and I downloaded games to our Crackberries and kept busy that way (although man, I bite at Suduku). The girls kept their grandparents hopping and the grandparents loved it. We completely destroyed my mother's immaculate house.

We were snowbound for six days, and finally decided that we were pushing the limits of family togetherness. We made a run for home yesterday morning, but unfortunately, we had to drive through this for the first 60 miles:

That, my friends, is a two lane state highway that was reduced to one lane because of massive snowdrifts that were taller than my minivan. There were areas where the road widened to two lanes... but then both lanes were covered with ice. We were very happy to finally make it to the Interstate and head south.

It wasn't the perfect Christmas. We never did make it see the husband's parents so that celebration has been postponed for a couple of weeks. My sister, who lives just a few miles from our parents, was snowbound at her house so I didn't get to see much of her. And I didn't get to visit my grandparents at all. However, we had electricity and food and - most important - wine, so I guess we were up on Laura Ingalls Wilder in that respect. We made it home safely and, with luck, I can convince the husband to go visit my parents again someday...

Maybe in July.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For Unto You A Child Is Born

Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'

---- from A Charlie Brown Christmas

We've baked Grandma's sugar cookies. We've read the Christmas story. We've read 'The Night Before Christmas'. And, of course, we've read 'The Night Before The Night Before Christmas'. I'm ready. Bring on the holiday!

Not all of the presents are bought. None of them are wrapped. There are still a few Christmas cards to be mailed. The house isn't clean and the car isn't packed and if I let myself write out a To Do list, my stress levels would go through the roof. But I'm NOT going to write out that list, because all that really matters is that in just a few days, I'll be with our extended family, celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

And my Dad... who shares December 25th as his birthdate :)

There's only one thing left to do, and I'll accomplish that this weekend - I must watch White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Once that is done, bring on Christmas. I'm ready to remember what it's all really about.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sugar Cookies Equal Love

This weekend, I made my Grandma's sugar cookies. I had to call her to get the recipe. I know I have the recipe around here somewhere but somewhere could be pretty much anywhere and frankly, I'm not patient enough to dig around through the cupboards when there's a perfectly good Grandma on the other end of the phone line.

So I made my Grandma dig through her cupboards. I'm a stellar granddaughter, no?

But the recipe was eventually found and I ran to the store because these cookies contain exotic ingredients not typically found in my house. Like cream of tartar (I have absolutely no idea what that is) and margarine (Grandma insisted it had to be margarine... and the cheaper, the better).

My Grandma isn't on the same level as Martha Stewart by any means. She's not Paula Deen either. Or even that scary stick-thin blonde chick who always coordinates her outfits with the decor in her fake set kitchen. Once, in a moment reminiscent of the Grilled Cheese Incident** of my childhood, Grandma forgot to put the hamburger in the chili we were having for Christmas dinner.

(**Guess what ingredient my mom forgot to put in the grilled CHEESE sandwiches? Any guesses? Any ideas what she might have left out of the grilled CHEESE sandwiches????)

Okay, so now that I've completely ruined my chances of getting a Christmas gift from my mother... back to the cookies.

Anyway, my Grandma is a practical cook - a farmwoman who fed my Grandpa and her four children and whatever grandchildren happened to be around with filling food that might not make the pages of a fancy cookbook but still makes me think of her. So when it was time to make sugar cookies, I was going to make her sugar cookies, come heck or high water. And I did. They're not light or fluffy or moist, the way Martha's would turn out. These cookies are crisp and crumbly and have just a hint of something that makes them Grandma's. Maybe it's that darn cream of tartar.

Just in case you're in the mood to make cookies the way my Grandma still makes them, I'm going to share the recipe. But you'll have to check with my mom if you want to know how to make grilled cheese.

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

1 c sugar
1 c powdered sugar
1 c margarine
1 c Canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp butter flavoring
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
5 1/4 c flour (or a little more or a little less, depending on what you think... according to Grandma)

Mix all the ingredients and then refrigerate until chilled. Roll into balls and then flatten onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. Or so. Grandma says she just keeps an eye on them and takes them out when she wants to eat one.