Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

Well, if anyone was

your wishes certainly came true here in Minnesota! It seems that every morning for the past few weeks we were faced with another opportunity to dig our way out to get the day started!

We were fortunate there was no new snow on Christmas Eve so we all were able to make it safely to our destination. This little guy, strangely, has special significance to the Geier, Simser and Birkholz family tradition. He has been with us every Christmas in some way, shape or form for over a decade, so it only seems appropriate to include him here as well.

Paul, Nick, Suzanne and I packed up our plates of Christmas goodies and headed to Jayne and Tom's in the early afternoon.

Paul's fruit cake turned out very well, incidentally! Jayne had such a wonderful buffet prepared!!!

Clara was our center of attention as we gathered to open our presents.

She did a great job of handing out gifts to the family with Jayne as her guide.

Some of the family members remembered when they had that job and wondered what happened to all of the undivided attention they used to receive!

Does it get any better than sharing Christmas with a child?

After all, their presents are usually way more fun than the adults'!!

Unless, of course, you have to cleverly plan how to use a multitude of whisks!!! Joe never disappoints with witty ideas.

Suzanne scored a "boatload" of gluten free goodies.

And, we all showed our competitive side as we rolled the dice for the traditional "white elephant" game. I just need to figure out how to use 20 pounds of pizza sauce........

Christmas Day found Paul and I back in the kitchen, this time putting the finishing touches on the smoked brisket.

The four of us were so happy to be able to share the day with Marlys, Paul, Lisa, Beth, Gary, Mike and his boys, Tyler and Caden.

Once again, we were excited to watch the little ones open their gifts. Paul and I found these noisy cars for the boys. Sorry, Mike!!! They just looked like they would be fun.

Speaking of noise, Tyler and Caden love that their big cousin, Nick, sets up a few drums for them to play. What a house this is, loud cars and drums!! Cool!!!

This is the first time the sisters have been together on Christmas Day in a long, long time. It was good for my soul to bond with Beth and Marlys.

We all lined up to share another meal. I think I was still full from Christmas Eve!

Maybe in my next life time, I will have a house big enough for everyone to sit around the same table!! Love you, kids!

After dinner, Caden charmed us all in his gentle way while Tyler headed for his nap.

Doesn't he just melt your heart? I am so excited to have those two closer to our house!!!

We were all in the Christmas spirit.

It is so wonderful to hold onto these moments when we can relax together and enjoy!

And now, the holidays have come to a close.

Paul and I are working to put Christmas away and pack up the camper for our trip.

We have our

the weather cooperates so we can get our camper up the hill!
I am ready to experience what I have dreamed about for years,

traveling during the winter to warmer climates. The next time you hear from us we should be singing a new song.

We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let Us Break Bread Together

Food brings people together.

In the past month, we have had wonderful opportunities to share with family and friends.

This entry seems to be all about food. In fact, you might even gain weight just reading!

It's genetic, I think.

Having spent so much time with my Mom's and Grandma's recipes

over the past month, I am beginning to understand I really had no other choice but to become a person who loves to feed people.

Coincidentally, even the deer enjoy food and drink at our house. The day before Thanksgiving while we enjoyed our morning coffee, we looked out the kitchen window and found our usual herd of deer a bit closer than usual.

See them checking out our bird feeders? The one in front is heading up to the patio to see if he can find the hibiscus plant he munched on all summer. When they were done with their little snack, they decided to drink all of the water out of our heated bird bath. Why shouldn't they have a warm drink just like us?

I guess we just have the welcome mat out for all God's creatures! Cheers!

We hosted the Geier side of the family for Thanksgiving.

If you follow Suzanne's blog, you already have seen her pictures from the day.
I do think Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is, to me, quite stress free. The day brings us together and we just don't have that many chances these days.

Linda, Jennifer and Clara stayed with us for the weekend. Here, Clara is bonding with Nick and me as we watch her enjoy her lunch. Having little ones in the house is such a treat!

Speaking of little ones, Paul's sister, Jayne, announced during dinner she and Tom were to become grandparents in June. You can probably tell Elizabeth (who is our godchild) has that "healthy glow" in their family picture. We are so excited for her and Mike.

Joey, our nephew who is in chef's school, dug right in at the stove that day and prepared a reduction sauce for our Thanksgiving meal. It was great. I love Joey. We cooked gluten free so Suzanne could share the meal with her family.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our house was filled once again with people gathering for food and drinks at the Geier's. Nick's group of friends has made a Thanksgiving weekend meal at our house an annual event. Paul and I love cooking for them. However, I told them that getting them all to sit down and eat at the same time was like herding cats!

They are great guys and we hope to be able to have them gather here for years to come.

Paul and I, understanding we were their hosts, but not wanting to interfere,

disappeared into our room after dinner to watch television and read while they took over the house and yard. After all, we never have intended to be Sometime during the night they left their bonfire and finished off most of the food that wasn't eaten during the meal.

They make themselves at home here in our house and we love these kids.

Too bad it started to snow during the night, because some of them had plans to sleep out under the stars. They found spots to sleep, so no worries, despite the weather.

Probably the best part of that event was that the next morning, Nick took care of every bit of the clean up, right down to scrubbing the kitchen floor while we had our morning coffee!!!!

The week after Thanksgiving, our niece, Melissa, graduated with a Master of Science degree in Nurse Anesthesia from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.

What an accomplishment!!! Congratulations, Missy! Her husband, Zuel, hosted a party in her honor at McGovern's in St. Paul. What a great time we had that evening. Both of Missy's sisters, Jennifer and Jessica, were able to be there to celebrate with their big sister.

Jennifer came all the way from Virginia and Jessie drove from Fargo with her dear little baby, Meredith, the newest member of our clan. I think Meredith is the most contented little baby I have ever met!!!
She really was the "belle of the ball" right along with Missy! Jessie is such a wonderful mother!

We had so much fun visiting with our niece, Lisa, pictured here in her Mom's (my sister, Marlys) kitchen with her nephew and our grand nephew, Kolin.

I keep pretty well posted with news from Lisa because she does such a great job with her blog. I wish more members of our family would do the same!!! It connects us!

Back to Missy's party. We all had so much fun visiting that evening. Dave, Rosie, Jenny, Jessie, Lisa, Paul and I visited and laughed until 1 a.m.!

I love my brother so much and we are so glad Zuel threw that party!

Most of you know I have been compiling Mom's recipe file. I promised myself I would do this for my siblings after her death in 1992. I am finally working to accomplish that goal. I currently have over 300 recipes posted and have at least another 100 remaining to be added. While I worked my way through her cookie, candy, cake and appetizer recipes, I decided I would try to make some for the holidays. So, I have spent quite a few days in the kitchen working with Mom's recipes.

I wanted to make some gluten free treats for Suzanne,

so for some reason, I got a little hung up in the peanut butter and chocolate section of Mom's files. So, we will be sharing Candy Buckeyes

and homemade turtles and peanut butter cups this Christmas.

Paul did some research online and found two fruitcake recipes he wanted us to bake. As a child, his aunt from Georgia would send homemade fruitcakes to his family during the holidays. He loved them! I, not having experienced homemade fruitcakes as a child, didn't think anyone ever ate them! He convinced me otherwise.
So, we took two mornings to put together the recipes and presently they are "soaking" away ready to be tested on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Pictures will follow with our Christmas entry. Paul also found a recipe in the paper for sugar plums,

so we made those as well.

Who knew sugar plums were mostly dried fruit?

Suzanne and Jon were invited to a housewarming/cookie exchange party last Friday. There was no time for either of them to bake anything for that event, so I made a batch of Mom's peanut butter Crinkles for them.

Paul is getting pretty good with food photos, don't you think? Obviously, I doubled the recipe. I think we will be eating those cookies for awhile!

Suzanne and I still hope to get a chance to make gluten free sugar cookies

before the holidays. We have all the adaptations ready, so I hope we can find the time to make them.

You know what? This is the first time I have ever really done Christmas baking. Some years, the four of us would bake a batch of spritz or sugar cookies after Christmas, if we had a chance. This year, in my first year of retirement, I keep thinking about Mom as I work in my kitchen.

I haven't come close to her level of accomplishment and I don't think I ever will. Just entering her recipes for Mary Ann (or Aunt Sally) cookies, Rosettes and Pizelles made me appreciate all the time she spent working to make sure that when our family got together it would be a special event. And, I know that Dad must have been right in there working to help her, too. Then I start thinking about her wedding cakes. Oh, my, what talent she had. So, this Christmas Eve, when we go to the Simser's, we will be bringing plates of recipes from Mom's cookie and candy file. And, a couple of her cheese ball recipes and her meatball recipe will be going with us, too.  And, we will share Christmas Day with the Fox's and the Dotzenrod's. With Mom watching over my shoulder,

I will happily spend a day or two in the kitchen preparing for that day. It has been years since the McDougall clan has gathered here for the holidays. I can hardly wait. I promise to post right after Christmas Day.

Because folks, before New Year's Day, Paul and I will be on the road again. We will leave our little house here in the frozen north

and though we haven't figured quite how yet, we will pull our camper 

up our snowy road and head to sunny Florida!

Keep the pictures of our "North Trail" in your mind because the next time you see a picture of this camper
it will (hopefully) be in a much warmer terrain!!!