The Christmas Tree


In childhood, no fake tree for us.

Just after Thanksgiving, the family search transpired.

Mom and Dad preferred Douglas fir, six feet tall.

Dutifully, we kept the tree holder filled with water,

never used real candles.  We put on lights, big ones,

blue, green, red, an inch long, then carefully hung on delicate,

colorful, round balls.  The most difficult task: the icicles,

long, silver, reflective.  They had to go on just so.

Years later, children gone, Mom and Dad bought an

artificial tree, fake Douglas fir, incredibly real in appearance.

 

When they left Missouri for Arizona every winter after harvest,

they abandoned Christmas trees, gave me the fake Douglas fir.

I still have it.  How long?  Decades, several at least.  State of the art

when they bought it, it requires work, assembly, strings of lights.

Every year, I tell myself it is time to get one of those new trees with lights

already installed, so much easier to take up and down.  I never buy one.

I cannot bear to part with Mom and Dad’s tree.  One year, annoyed with

putting on lights, I decorated it lightless.  I missed the lights.  Now every year,

decades later, I assemble it, take the time to string the lights.  Some of the lower

branches no longer stay, but I work around that, hang the colorful, delicate

Christmas ornaments I love, collected over years and years, wrap the base in

the red and white cloth given to me from Africa. On cold evenings, like this one,

I turn off the other lights, drink tea like my mother did, and remember my

childhood.

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Rye Bread with Cardamon and Golden Raisins


Every year for so many years I fail to recall, I have made this bread during the holiday season.  Why then, I have no idea because the bread is not just for winter or anything in particular.  It makes three loaves and a good present; maybe that was the original reason.  It also takes more time than ordinary bread; I usually have time off during this season.

2 packages yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 1/2 cups light cream or evaporated milk

2 cups unsifted, unbleached flour

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 tsp. fresh ground cardamon

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup milk

2 cups rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 – 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk.  Add the 2 cups flour; beat until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  Stir in the eggs, sugar, butter, golden raisins, and cardamon.  Beat until smooth.  Add the milk and rye flour and stir until combined.  At this point using a dough hook makes it easier.  Add the whole wheat flour and enough of the unbleached flour to make a stiff dough.  Sprinkle remaining flour onto a board or granite counter top.  Knead until smooth.  Oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to grease both sides.  Let rise until doubled.  Punch down and work into a smooth ball.  Divide into three equal portions.  Place in three pans of your choosing (I use one regular loaf pan and two cake pans).  After dough has risen to double in size, bake in a 350 degree oven.  While loaves are still hot, brush with butter.  Allow loaves to cool before removing from the pans.

This bread is especially good with Swiss cheese or other similar cheeses and makes a tasty left over turkey sandwich.

 

 

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe


Today, Thanksgiving Day, I will make Barbara Duke Lightle’s (my mother)  pumpkin pie, using a recipe and blender she gave me decades ago.  The recipe includes a small hand written note about her preferred way of combining the ingredients.  My grandson loves this pie and the idea that what he is eating is a recipe from his great grandmother, a woman he will never know.  He tries other pumpkin pies but likes only this one.  Dad loved this pie, too.  After Mom died and he discovered he was gluten intolerant, he taught himself to cook.  He made this for himself sans the crust–pumpkin pudding.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk or milk combined with cream or evaporated milk

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

(or use 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp ginger for a more spicy flavor)

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Place your hand over the blender cover before starting the motor.  Blend just  a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.  A piece of outer peel of orange can be blender grated into the pie mixture–if you do this, place in blender with 1/2 cup milk and blend fine before adding other ingredients.

You may use squash instead of pumpkin.

The hand written note says, “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best”.

I use evaporated milk totally and white sugar like Mom recommended.  I have never used orange peel.  The cinnamon I am using today comes from a tree at my friend’s mother’s house in Ethiopia.

This seems a great day to also thank my mother for all she taught me:  cooking, singing and playing the piano, a love of beauty–flowers, wildlife, good food, the list is endless.  She taught me think positively, to believe in myself, to make the most of what life brings, to never give up.  Thank you, Mom!!!

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