Saturday, December 24, 2016

Waiting for Santa


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.


With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!


"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"


As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.


His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mrs. Freeman's Pumpkin Fruitcake

Mrs. Freeman was a sweet lady who lived just across the fence from us when I was a child. In her upper 80's, she knew the names of all her neighbors. I loved to visit her and we would have long conversations as she poured jams and jellies into baby food jars. These would be gifts for neighbors along with the most delicious pumpkin fruitcake you ever put in your mouth. Each baked in a tomato soup can and wrapped in foil, then Christmas paper and ribbon- they were special gifts. I wish I had her recipe, but I was only 8 and didn't know the importance of such things! This one's from Taste of Home and I've made it many times. It's moist and delicious, filled with pecans and dates, raisins and cherries and none of that yucky citron that makes people hate fruitcake to begin with.

Pumpkin Fruitcake 
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
10 red candied cherries, chopped
Glaze:
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in pumpkin. Combine the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the pecans, dates, raisins and cherries.
Spoon into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Yield: 12 servings.
If you'd like to try baking in the cans, just like Mrs. Freeman... here's another recipe that would be great for gift giving, complete with directions for baking times in soup cans!

Walnut-Date Bread 
3/4 cup walnuts,finely chopped
1 cup sliced dates
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
Combine nuts, dates,soda and salt in mixing bowl. Add shortening and boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes, stir to blend.
Beat eggs slightly, add vanilla. Sift in sugar and flour and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. (This is a very stiff mixture.) Add to date mixture, mixing until well blended.
Grease 4 soup cans (10 1/2 or 11 oz. size). Pour batter into cans,filling two thirds full. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 350° for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer or until center test done. Cool 15 minutes and remove from cans. Cool completely.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sunshine Road


There's an old saying, "If you've forgotten the language of gratitude, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness." I think that the holidays opens our eyes every year to the many blessings in our lives. We have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry and good health. Those are the Big Ones... or are they? Could you be happy if you didn't have a home, or you had to worry about where you next meal was coming from? What if you faced serious health issues, could you find gratitude anywhere in that?

On my way to town, I pass by Sunshine Road. Sounds like the perfect "Christmas Card Address," the kind that invokes memories of cozy homes with smoke curling out of the chimneys. In reality, it's one of the poorest parts of Benton County with small, ramshackle trailers. Many are without heat and running water. How could that be? Well, it just is. One of the residents of Sunshine Road rides with me to and from town occasionally. She walks, in the rain, in the cold, in the heat of summer to work at Wendy's. I'd say Mary is my age, she has a grandson the same age as mine that lives with her. She's always cheerful, carrying her backpack and sometimes loaded down with sacks of groceries. A smile on her face, she told me once with pride that she owns her trailer.

It's in our hearts where gratitude lives and grows. We either feed it daily or we let it die a slow, horrible death. Look around you this holiday season and you will see many opportunities to feed the gratitude in your heart and in the heart of others. 

I'm counting my blessings this morning, I bet you are too! Happy Thanksgiving!
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