Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas on the Riverwalk

We went to the San Antonio Riverwalk last week with two of our three sons.  That night the temperatures hovered around 68 F. and the skies were clear. One terminal of the Riverwalk is a mall area. The river goes right up to the steps. Peruvian musicians have been there for years, playing their beautiful music (pan pipes and all!). This night they were playing Christmas music. In the middle of the river is a little island with a huge Christmas tree on it. 
. We could have ridden a boat along the river to see all the lights and sights, but we chose to walk. All along the cobblestone pathways, we heard carolers singing. They were sitting in small barges along the river - one held a group of school children, another a woman's group, another a men's quartet. We stopped at a steakhouse for dinner and chose to sit at a table on the river.The Riverwalk is below street level, so it feels like a separate city. We decided to walk up to street level and see more of the city. Horse drawn carriages covered with lights were drawn along the street. (We don't have snow or white Christmases, so we make up for that with lots of lights!)  And there we were at another Texas landmark, the Alamo! Most people are surprised at how small it seems.....                                            
                             but it is a "huge" attraction here.
                   Merry Christmas from the Alamo! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Story of the Gumdrop Tree

My Uncle Ted and Aunt Floy always had a gumdrop tree at Christmas time. They lived across the alley from us and my cousin Shirley was my age, so I was at their house often. The gumdrop tree sat on a side table beside the couch in their living room. It called to me. I wanted so badly to pick off a gumdrop and pop it in my mouth. BUT, my Uncle Ted, who loved children and was very often a jokester, had told me that if I touched a gumdrop, it would disappear! I longed to touch one to see it vanish into thin air, but I knew that he would know if one was missing. I didn't want to do anything to put me on his "bad side" (if he even had one!), so I carefully skirted my way around the gumdrop tree when I was in the living room. I didn't want to accidentally touch a gumdrop, or horrors, a whole branch of them. As far as I can remember, I NEVER ate a gumdrop off that tree. 
When my boys were little, I bought one of those little plastic gumdrop trees just like my Uncle Ted had. I put it up every year. You can see that my boys are not afraid of making the gumdrops disappear and they never were. It didn't work on them. As soon as they were told, they ran over to see the magic! Oh, well. It still became a tradition. I even have a back-up gumdrop tree in case this one "bites the dust". (You could use a bare branch if you don't have a plastic tree.)
     My mother had a cookie cookbook from Betty Crocker when I was a little girl. (As soon as a reproduction came out I ran out and bought it!) I have memories of bar cookies with gumdrops from that book. I will give the recipe here. I haven't found gumdrops that aren't "spice" drops, so I don't know if that is what she used or if gumdrops were different back then! If you use spice drops, I would pick out the licorice ones and not include them! 

 Jeweled Bars
4 eggs, separated
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup candied orange slices or gumdrops, finely cut
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees (F). beat egg yolks; add sugar, water, and vanilla. Blend dry ingredients; stir into egg yolk/sugar mixture. Mix in candy pieces and nuts. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold in. Spread in well-greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into bars while warm. Makes about 3 dozen bars.
       Until next time, have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A UFO and my Grandmother's Fudge Recipe

I had decided to put my quilting away until after the holiday season. My calendar is way too full right now to even think about dragging out my unfinished work. BUT, I can't resist. I went into my quilting studio to clean up a little (I really need to clean a LOT), but I ran across this UFO from about 2 years ago. I had finished it to this point just before we moved into this house. I put it away temporarily and then forgot it existed! I can't resist. I still need a backing, but it might be that I could finish it in time to give it as a gift. It was intended for my oldest son. Maybe I can find snippets of time to work on it. If not, I will put it on my design wall so that it stays nice and pressed and just show him what he will be getting. 
I also have another holiday recipe for you. This is from my grandmother, the one who is 102 years old. She made this at Christmas every year. To me, this is Christmas fudge! I looked forward to it all year.

                                        See's Fudge 
Place in a large heat proof bowl:
          18 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips 
          1 pint marshmallow cream or 2 cups miniature marshmallows
          1/2 pound butter
          2 tablespoons vanilla extract
          2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
Place in a large saucepan:
          4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
          1 2/3 cups (large can) undiluted evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk!) 
Mix sugar and milk and bring to a boil. Boil about 7 minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally. Start timing when it first starts to bubble. 
Add the boiled mixture to the uncooked ingredients in the bowl and stir well. Pour into a buttered 9" x 13" pan. It will set as it cools. 
(I like to use an electric hand mixer to really beat the melting ingredients into the hot sugar/milk mixture. I feel this gives it a smoother texture.)
Variation: Here is a variation that I came up with and have used in the past:
Half the recipe and boil it only 5 minutes. Use "milk chocolate" chips in place of half the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Use almond extract in place of vanilla, but don't half the amount. Toast almond slivers and use as the nuts. Pour into a 9" x 9" pan. I called it Hershey Bar Fudge. 

                     Merry Christmas! 
                            I need to get busy now! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Decorating

The breakfast area ready for family.
Although a chore, decorating for Christmas is a big part of the holiday season for me. 
My oldest son arrives on Saturday. He will be here until next Wednesday and has to be back at work on the east coast after that. He was quick to ask, "Will the house be decorated by then?" It just isn't quite as festive at our house unless the decorating is done.

This is my very favorite Christmas decoration. It is "Santa Claus" and was drawn and then painted by my youngest son when he was five. (He's now twenty-nine!) This painting makes me smile. Santa has about fifty teeth all showing in a broad smile. Those huge eyes could scare anyone and the off center beard is a little funky. The red poster paint has faded to a pink, but that's okay with me. I've brought it out every year for the last twenty-four years. Last year I had it professionally framed. I wish I had a painting of Santa by all three of my sons at that age!

I have it hanging in my foyer so that anyone who walks in will see it.

I love children's art work! Especially my own children and grandchildren. When the boys were little, my dining room was a gallery of their art work - all placed in inexpensive frames and hung on the wall along with family portraits. I could gaze at dump trucks and robots, dogs and monsters, and families all holding hands and standing in a row. (I also have a ghost picture with a large label in 4 year old handwriting that says "Don't scare God!"(I wish I knew what prompted that one!) My boys were early readers and writers, so they came up with some really funny captions!

My tree is decorated with ornaments from the 1940's and 1950's along with birds and berries. It is a simple tree this year, but the ornaments are my favorites. Some are from my husband's childhood and some are from an old Victorian house we owned. (They were hanging between the fretwork that separated the front hall from the back hall.) 

Here's a view of the tree in its entirety. 

Until next time, have a great holiday season!
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