Happy Happy!

Every year, the stupid talk about the alleged “Merry Christmas” ban begins anew. When I heard that our president was promising to bring Merry Christmas back again, I was honestly taken aback. I never knew those words were gone. Where did they go? Who took them away?

I say it to who I want without fear of being arrested by the Christmas secret police, but at the same time, I also am a fan of “Happy Holidays.” December is filled with many holidays, so saying “happy holidays” covers them all. It’s more considerate.

Thinking about all the controversy over what to say makes me think of my grandma. Baba, who spoke little English, would say to us with her very heavy Russian accent, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Happy!”

She was way ahead of her time. In fact, while picking up our dozen icing-covered, cream-filled, glaze-encrusted box of Dunkin Donuts for our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, I told the cheery young lady behind the counter about Baba’s expression. She smiled and said she liked it.

So I am proposing that America adopt a new expression this holiday season: Happy Happy Everyone!

Personally, you can wish me whatever you want—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa. I am just happy for the smiles and the goodwill.


The End of Innocence

At what age do children begin to lose their sweet innocence? As a grandmother, I have more time to observe than when I was a frazzled young mother of three, and I have concluded that it happens at some point during the fourth year.

Over the past few months, while enjoying many spirited afternoons sitting around the kitchen table playing Candy Land, I observed Bryce clearly cheating. One time the little trickster claimed ignorance when skipping ahead a few extra squares. “I didn’t know I skipped one yellow square.” Another time, I caught him not-so-slyly peaking at the cards while attempting to find the ice cream cone, which would put him near the finish line.

He knew what he was doing was wrong and was even familiar with the word “cheating.” I wanted to throw the book at him and vowed not to let to him win. This was war!

After returning him home today after his latest sleepover, Kelly showed us a broken ornament. Lily was the culprit, but at not yet two, I think she broke poor Cocky’s leg while trying to admire him. It was not intentional. Kelly told Dad and me that she had told Bryce that Bampa could fix it. Bryce had another solution.  “We should hide it from Daddy!”

Gone is the age of innocence.

Under Repair

The Entertainers

You come from a long line of entertainers. There was my grandmother’s great uncle Jack Blue, who was quite a famous dance instructor during the 30’s. He taught celebrities such as Katharine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, and Buddy Ebsen. Although I know those are probably unfamiliar names to all of you, trust me, those three were all very famous.

Several other members of our family entertained locally—including Grandma and Aunt Marian who loved to dance in church shows and at the local VA hospital.

So when the three of you were young, it was not surprising to watch you follow in their footsteps as you sang and danced to the tunes of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Now we have a new generation to follow, and today Bryce gave his first performance at his “My Gym” camp. I have seen him perform his routine at home, but I was quite impressed to hear that he volunteered to do so for his new friends on the first day with them.

Apparently he is a fan of the movie Sing, and he absolutely loves to sing and play his little piano to the Elton John song “I’m Still Standing.” He especially likes to do a glissando.  That’s when you slide your fingers from the bottom to the to on the piano.

I am sorry I was not a fly on the wall of that gym because I hear that the instructor found the song and flashed the lights while he performed. I can’t wait for Lily to join his dance troupe.


Back in Time with a Slice of Pie

While Dad and I were awaiting our order at the Kroger’s deli counter the other day, he began chatting with one of their cooks. After what seemed like the end of the conversation, the chef left, but then returned a few minutes later and handed Dad a plate of freshly-baked pizza. What a nice surprise!

The best part of this unexpected treat came when I bit into it and was once again transported back in time—this time to the kitchen of my childhood. That supermarket pizza, while not the tastiest pizza I have ever eaten, was nevertheless the best memory-jogger of the month.

I know I have mentioned how Grandma discovered how to fulfill the meatless Friday Catholic Church obligation by substituting her creamed tuna on toast delight with homemade pizza. However, I don’t believe I shared her recipe with you.

As a very busy mother of five, she resorted to short-cuts often.  Grandma purchased frozen bread dough at our local supermarket, which she used both for pizza crust and “homemade” hamburger buns. She thawed the dough, carefully spread it out on a Crisco-covered cookie sheet, opened up a can of tomato sauce, and topped the whole mess with mozzarella cheese. There were no meat or vegetable toppings. It was simply a plain cheese pie and we loved it.

While the Kroger pizza sauce was definitely tastier than the canned sauce from Grandma’s pantry, that crust definitely tasted the same as her frozen dough crust. With a smile on my face, I told the Kroger cook about my mother’s pie, and Dad asked him if he had made it on site. “No, it comes here frozen!” Aha!!

I headed to the frozen-food department in search of the frozen dough. Alas, it was not to be found, but now I have a new mission in life, which is to find that frozen dough so I can recreate Grandma’s famous pizza. I think, however, that I will add our old familiar twist, which is our traditional pie topped with (can you guess?)…. meatballs, peppers, and onions. Yum, yum!


The Catalog is Dead

Years ago, there were three things which announced the onset of the Christmas season: Decorations in stores, holiday music on the radio and television, and the arrival of the JC Penney Christmas catalog. Before the visit to Santa, each of you had assembled your list so you knew just what to tell the jolly old elf to bring you on Christmas Eve.

Now technology, and probably the economics of printing and mailing the catalogs, has made these highly-anticipated mailings another relic of the past. I sent a tweet to Ask JCPenney (@askjcp), where I was told, “We no longer issue the large paper catalogs.” I was then directed to their website.

How sad! No longer can our children peruse the “Big Book” and circle all the items which strike their fancy. I pointed out, in my return tweet, that “not all young children can sit at a computer and do this. Not all progress is good.”

How do the children born in an era without that infamous catalog create their Santa wish lists?


A Dying Tradition

With Christmas just seventeen days away, it’s time to review my Christmas list.

  • The Christmas decorations are done—inside and out
  • The presents have been ordered and have been hidden away, waiting to be wrapped
  • The cookies have been baked and are out of site in the freezer so they will be not be stale and eaten before Christmas Eve.
  • Watch a few favorite Christmas movies. (Not done)
  • Buy a tacky Christmas sweater (Will I do it this year?)
  • However, the Christmas cards are sitting on the dining room table while I debate whether to send any this year.

I suspect that I am not alone on the last item on the list because in the past, the cards had been pouring in by now. In the early years of our marriage, we got so many that, following Grandma’s decorating scheme, I would have them all taped around the doorways. Now, not a single card has found its way into our mailbox, and I admit that I am secretly happy about this. I wonder if they are becoming obsolete—like landlines.

There are a few cards I always enjoy receiving each year, which are those with an updated family photo or a note filled with news from friends we have not spoken to in a while. But when I get a card from someone I see or speak with frequently, I feel guilty for not having sent one to them. Is that a reason for sending a card?

Instead of writing to you in this blog or working on that family cookbook, I guess I should start reviewing my Christmas list so I can decide once and for all what I will do this year.

Are any of you sending out any cards?

That Delectable Chain Cake of Friendship

Chain letters. We have all received some form of them over the years. You know how it goes: Send something to the person at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom, and then forward the letter to several friends. You are then promised great rewards as a result of your participation—money, recipes, luck, prayers.

Years ago, I participated in different sort of chain activity. It was called a friendship cake. Here’s how it worked:

I was given a cup of what looked like cake batter. It was actually called “starter” and was a key ingredient in keeping the cake alive for potentially generations. On the first and fifth day, I was instructed to add milk, flour, and sugar to the starter and then cover and refrigerate it. The only work was to remember to stir once a day.

On day 10, I was instructed to remove and give one cup of the batter and pass it on to three friends along with the instructions. To the remaining batter there were a bunch of ingredients to add—sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, nuts, and fruit—before placing in a pan and baking.

The cake was so good that I kept one cup for myself, which meant I only needed to find two friends to receive the batter.

I don’t see the friendship cake working in today’s busy world where people barely have enough time to go to the grocery store to pick up an already-baked cake. This bakery chain letter takes time and commitment. It’s too bad, because it was quite tasty.