IndieBRAG Holiday Blog Hop

I have joined indieBRAG Medallion honorees for the month of December, on, for  this Christmas Blog Hop. Participating authors will share tales of Christmas traditions and more. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays to you!

Dad worked on the Christmas tree lot for the Optimists Club every year, selling beautiful and fresh-smelling pines and cedars. He could have xmastressbrought home the fullest, tallest, most gorgeous tree, but money was always tight. We didn’t get the Charlie Brown tree, but we’d inspect the ones in the back of the lot and find one that was misshapen – you know, that one that had a noticeable gap in the branches. But it was our tree! Covered in lights, balls, and tinsel (and with that gap facing the corner wall), it was perfect.

When I was growing up, the tree would go up in the first or second week of December. My mom made the holidays so festive – she loved to fill the house with greenery, sparkly lights, Christmas candles, even Christmas-y soaps in the bathrooms. The dining room table would be decked out in holiday colors, except when it was laden with presents being wrapped! One present that wouldn’t be there was Dad’s gift for Mom. Around 3 or 4pm on Christmas Eve, Dad would say ‘let’s go.’ We were off to the store to find a gift. He always knew exactly what he was going to buy, so we weren’t parading from one shop to the next. Straight to the appliance section for that new microwave; or to the jewelry counter – sometimes to both!

Mom made food gifts every year. Fudge, a dozen variety of cookies, and lasagna! We had lasagna-making parties. Four or more of us would sit at the kitchen table. Four types of cheeses would be shredded (none of that already shredded package stuff). Cooked noodles were in one bowl; more were cooking on the stove top. And the sauce – oh my! Mom called it her ‘meat sauce’ recipe, but Grandma Natale called it gravy.

My old card with Mom’s recipe is well-splattered, and I use the kitchen counter now to pull together my versions of sauce and lasagna. My pot is about 1/8 the size of the one Mom used. If you want the recipe for the meat sauce, I blogged about it 3 years ago; and Mom’s lasagna was delicioso! Lasagna has been our traditional Christmas dinner since I was a kid. Last year, we continued the tradition at my daughter’s house. My sons couldn’t join us, but they do remember that wonderful lasagna.

Nowadays at my house the tree trimming begins the day after Thanksgiving. I want to enjoy the holiday lights – including my Yoda tree-topper –  for several weeks. In my single-parent household,  we usually celebrated the holiday a week early every other year. The kids got two Christmases – one in Kansas and another in Florida. We enjoyed the tree when they returned, sometimes until the end of January. I do admit, I stop playing Christmas music on New Year’s Day.

What is or was your favorite stocking gift(s)?
Chocolate. Do people put other things in stockings?

What is your favorite Christmas story?
That’s a tough one… How about 3?
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; and
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

Egg Nog or Cocoa?
I can have cocoa anytime throughout the year, so egg nog is a real treat during the holidays.

What is your favorite part of Christmas day?
I love the smell of spaghetti sauce bubbling away on the stove top for hours, the lasagna & italian sausage cooking, garlic bread baking, and just relaxing with family with Christmas lights blazing and music playing.

Do you go all out on Christmas decorations?
That would be a “yes.”  

(I had to include the blizzard picture – that was Christmas Day a few years back!)

What is your favorite Christmas movie and why?
White Christmas
. I love the music & singing, the dancing, the story. I cry every time the General sees what his friends and family have done for him. A favorite memory is of Mom and her sister Betty doing the sisters’ routine for a party at their retirement community.

Thank you for stopping by. Check out the other indieBRAG holiday participants. The next stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is tomorrow, December 13, with Martha Kennedy 

Happy Holidays to you & yours.

traditions – Mom’s lasagna

Picture of yesterday’s snow
because I don’t have a pic of lasagna

Yesterday, the meat sauce. Today, Mom’s lasagna…

1 box lasagna noodles (this works fine with the oven ready variety, too)
1 lb. cottage¹ cheese (or ricotta)
8 oz. grated mozzarella
8 oz. grated mild cheddar
1 or 2 eggs
spaghetti sauce
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Fresh grated Parmesan

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Rinse, drain and let cool. (Or skip this step if you’re using the oven-ready variety.)

In a large mixing bowl, add the Italian seasoning & the egg(s) to the cottage (or ricotta) cheese. Mix well. Blend in the mozzarella and the cheddar.

In an 8×13 casserole dish, coat the bottom with 1/4 cup of sauce. Place a layer of noodles and 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the sauce.  Add another 1/4 cup of sauce. (Follow pkg. directions for amount of sauce with the oven-ready noodles – you’ll need a lot more sauce.) Repeat for layer 2: noodles, cheese, sauce. Add a final layer of noodles. Top that with a good coating of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.² Let sit before dishing out.

Serve with more sauce, garlic bread, and meatballs and sausage! Enjoy.

~ ~ ~ ~
¹If you wonder about using cottage cheese, my parents passed down the story of moving from New York to Georgia, and then South Carolina, in the late 1940s. Grocery stores in the south didn’t have ricotta cheese! Mom substituted cottage cheese. For years, I liked her version of lasagna better.
² You can also make this days or weeks ahead and freeze. When I was a kid, we had lasagna-making days. A huge pot of sauce bubbled on the stove top all day long, filling the house with wonderful smells. We’d gather at the kitchen table and create a dozen or more pans of lasagna – some to give as Christmas gifts, other to freeze and take out for other special meals after the holidays. Mmm…

Mom’s spaghetti sauce

Thinking about Christmas traditions, including dinner… so I thought I’d repost Mom’s meat sauce recipe. Enjoy!

Charlene Newcomb

I mentioned some family traditions in my post last week. That made me think about Mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe. That’s what I call it. She called it her “meat sauce” recipe. I had to dig through old recipe files to find my copy of it. I was in near-panic mode when it didn’t turn up in the 3 card files I have. I started sifting through cookbooks, hoping I’d used it as a bookmark. I have a lot of cookbooks – I know, surprising for someone who doesn’t cook very often. Finally, after a 30 minute search,  I found the 2 sauce-stained cards tucked into a pocket of a 3 ring binder. Whew. Well used meat sauce recipe

I haven’t made the recipe in years – even Mom started doctoring bottled sauce by the time she hit her late 70s. I’m certain many cooks continue to make their own so I thought I’d share…

View original post 500 more words

And so ends 2012…

Snow is falling outside my window. I’m wrapped in layers, a blanket over my lap. Nice and snug. I’m working on my historical fiction novella, the tale of two knights’ journey during  the Third Crusade. Henry & Stephan are on their way home now. It’s snowing in the mountains. They are in enemy territory in this December of 1192, following on the trail of  King Richard the Lionheart. They’ve just had a run-in with Duke Leopold’s soldiers, a diversion to slow their pursuit of the king. Things aren’t looking good, but the king is safely away – for the moment.

Back to December 2012. Here in Manhattan – the Little Apple – there is a popular event on December 31 each year. Rather than the crystal ball drop, we have a “little apple” drop in Aggieville. It draws upwards of 10,000 people, even in years when wind chills have hovered around 0°.

I’ll plan to listen to the fireworks from inside my house, thank you very much.

Happy New Year to one and all. May your 2013 be grand.

Christmas candies