December 23, 2008

Happy Yule, Y'all!

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

The snow is coming down here in Colorado, just perfect for this time of year. However, we'll be spending our Christmas in Louisiana and I doubt we'll have a white Christmas there...although, they did get snow a couple of weeks ago! For most families, Christmas brings with it traditions. In my family, we went to church on Christmas Eve, then feasted on ham and biscuits, cheese strata with mushroom gravy, and fruit salad. We then opened presents from each other. On Christmas Day, I delighted in emptying my stocking and opening presents from Santa, then we'd have the traditional spread of turkey and dressing and the fixings - either at our house or that of family members - and just spend the day enjoying food, fun and family. When Neal and I married, we would spend Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with his. And as long as my parents were alive, they were invited to join us at my in-laws' celebrations. Although we gave up the gifts from Santa years ago (why can't adults believe in Santa?), we continued the Christmas Eve church, dinner and gift-giving tradition until my mother died.

Can you see the goats on the left and the donkey in the middle at the back? One of the goats was jumping up in the air and acting rather unruly. He cracked me up!

Since moving away from family, Neal and I have discussed starting our own traditions during the holidays. We don't have children, so we are not obligated to do the whole Santa thing, and we haven't decorated a tree in years due to our four-legged babies. We do usually decorate the outside of our house with lights and bows and such, and we've made a habit of leaving all the Christmas lights on overnight on Christmas Eve (just in case Santa decides to stop by). Another tradition that we've developed is watching It's a Wonderful Life every year. No matter how many times I watch that show, I seem to always pick up on something different. A new tradition we have begun since moving to Colorado is attending an outdoor nativity program at a church a couple of blocks from our house. It's a lovely program and it never fails to get me into the Christmas spirit. Plus, they serve hot chocolate and cookies and some of the characters include live animals such as goats, donkeys and alpacas! What more could an animal-loving-city-girl-gone-country want?

I guess you could say baking during the holidays is a tradition for me. My mom used to bake and make other homemade goodies to give to others for Christmas, and I have continued that endeavor. Every year she would make fudge (milk chocolate or peanut butter) from a recipe that had been passed down through generations. Silly me obliviously attempted the fudge this year, not taking into account the altitude thing (remember my praline mishap a couple of years ago?). This recipe is an original stovetop version, not a microwave version which my mom later switched to. It took me an hour's worth of stirring time to get it to the soft ball stage on the candy thermometer, but get there we finally did and it set up just like it was supposed to. And guess what? It was delicious. Next year, though, I think I'll try out the microwave recipe.

Milk Chocolate Fudge

4 c. sugar
1 2/3 c. evaporated milk
1 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chopped pecans
1 pint marshmallow cream
12 oz. milk chocolate chips (can substitute peanut butter chips if desired)

Combine sugar, milk and butter. Cook on stove to soft ball stage (approximately 236 degrees), stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add chips, marshmallow cream, vanilla and nuts. Mix until chips melt. Pour into buttered pan and let cool. Cut into squares.

Whatever your traditions are during the holidays, it matters not how elaborate, expensive or detailed they are. What matters most is that you take time to enjoy the reason you are celebrating (whatever it is you are celebrating), and cherish every moment of time you can spend with those you love. Since Neal gave me the day off from work to pack and get things ready for our trip, I best get moving along! I wish you much joy, peace and happiness. And as we Southerners say, "Happy Yule Y'all!"

This is the favorite spot of feline residents these days. Can't you just see them holding hands and singing Kum Ba Ya?


Lynda said...

Your fudge recipe sounds utterly divine - fudge is one of my all time favourites :) I also love the spot you've set up for your kitties - it's just the sort of thing I'd do for mine ;)
Have a wonderful 2009 !
Lynda, Kilimanjaro, East Africa

Lilla said...

Hi Lynda - the fudge is really terrific but I'm not too keen on stirring for over an hour! It's hard to get adjusted to baking and cooking in this high altitude, but I'm determined to master it.

The kitties and dogs are very spoiled. I like to joke and say it's their home, we just pay the mortgage! Happy 2009 to you!