Dec. 10, 2016

Christmas! Lights, Trees, Decorations and Pumpkin Bread

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale

It’s true, isn’t it! We’ve been walking Sierra Madre early in the mornings, enjoying the lights our neighbors leave on through the night, even thought it's been a brisk 46 degrees. Across the street, Susan has wreaths that are brightly lit in all colors. Lisa and Craig next door have mostly red lights this year, with lighted candy canes and Star Shower lights on the gate pillars. On the other side, Javier has strings of lights everywhere and the effect is simply delightful.

Have you seen Star Shower? Flashing lights in green or red that light up the entire front of houses and all their trees. We now have two and are so happy with the light show that sprays red and green patterns all over the front of our house and up in the trees. We truly do light up the night. We don’t have a tree, but inside our house it’s a veritable festival of Christmas with lighted houses on every flat surface; poinsettias, my grandmother’s little red wooden sled with a white polar bear sitting in it. This is our second tree-less year and, while I have moments when I miss it horribly, I then think about the back breaking labor involved in getting it decorated and undecorated and just feel relief.

Why is it that putting up Christmas decorations is so much more fun than taking them down. Also, why is it that the Christmas decorations that seem so few and so light as you take them out of the basement and up the stairs have doubled (like wire hangers) in size and tripled in weight and you can’t remember when on earth you carried all those up.

Playing Christmas music and rediscovering each cute little Christmas item is such fun and then deciding where to put each one is a pleasure. I’m especially partial to all the lighted houses. My mother started collecting them many years ago and gave her collection to me. I have added to it over the years and now think I have about twenty of them. They look fantastic on the piano, behind the couch and on the maple hutch in the dining room. I turn them all on each morning as soon as my feet hit the floor.

We all have special nostalgic goodies that fill our hearts with memories and happy thoughts, pictures of our children taken in Sunday School, our grandchildren’s little hands and feet on ceramic tiles, tiny felt Christmas stockings with everyone’s name on them glued on in glitter. We even have little glass ornaments which were my Aunt Helen’s, dating from the ‘30s. 

All these things are so valuable and precious to me, but will they be precious to anyone else? Christmas is so very different now that our children are all grown with children of their own. They want to celebrate Christmas in their own homes under their own tree, and they should. 

We are totally immersed in the cooking season, preparing to send along something from our oven – remember Pillsbury’s campaign sometime ago, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven!” I’m a great believer in that so am making persimmon cookies, fruitcake cookies, pumpkin cookies, Christmas Jam, two kinds of cranberry bread and at this very moment, Apple Butter is simmering away ready to pour into pint jars. My sister-in-law, Pat, makes the best Pumpkin Bread and you should try hers this year.

Pat’s Pumpkin Bread

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 15-oz can solid pack pumpkin

Mix all that together in your mixer.

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. each: ground cloves, cinnamon (generous tsp) nutmeg, baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

Mix this group of dry ingredients together and add to the pumpkin mixture, mixing till it’s all well combined. You can add dried cranberries, nuts, raisins, or nothing at all if you’re a purist. Bake at 350 for about an hour and you’ll have five or so small loaves or a couple of larger loaves (use those disposable foil pans). You can wrap ‘em and freeze ‘em, or wrap ‘em to give away. Your house will smell divine and people will beat a path to your kitchen to get some of your pumpkin bread. (Recipe from Tablespoon of Love, Tablespoon of Laughter).

If you haven’t read my Christmas E-Book, Star of Wonder – A Christmas Story, you should. You can get it from my page: It will make you smile as you see what happens to the lonely people who find joy, hope and peace on Christmas Eve when a brilliant new star appears in the sky.

“The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.” Thomas S. Monson

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them..." Luke 2:8-9