My Mom’s Christmas Tray

I have a confession to make. As a child I never understood why so many people hated fruitcake, or even why it was called “cake.” You see, my Mom’s fruitcake was more like candy. She got the recipe from a fancy restaurant somewhere, and it was pretty much pecans and candied fruit.

Every year, growing up in Tonti, our family Christmas tradition was that my parents would make the fruitcake and chocolate fudge. We had to make sure to save grocery bags (they were paper…) as the recipe specified that the fruitcake be baked on brown paper bags. My mom had a golden tray for serving the fruitcake as well as homemade fudge, and eventually, my dad’s snickerdoodles. She kept a supply of these treats in the freezer to pull out for company through the Christmas season. My mom also made wonderful Swedish tea rings.

I recently found my Mom’s golden tray again, and I can’t explain how happy I was to be reunited with it. This tray triggered lots of warm, family memories.

After Thanksgiving, my family would decorate for Christmas. My mom had decorations for the entire two-story house. I tried to hang onto ones with sentimental meaning. Unfortunately, the historical May 8th Derecho of Southern Illinois destroyed some. She used to make a oragami-style poinsettia and a geometric figure ornaments that were amazing. Some house decorations were framed greeting cards–others things people had made. We had a Holiday Closet. The guest bedroom had a big, old-fashioned closet (our home had been a boarding house in the 1800’s) where seasonal decorations and home-canned goods were stored.

Christmas Cards that our family received went into a painted wooden card holder that was the same kind my parents had bought for people as Christmas gifts the first year they were married. Believe it or not, their Anniversary was Christmas Eve. At the time, both were teaching, and that was when they could be off work. My brother and I had Christmas stockings that my Mom’s cousin made for us. Since we did not have a fireplace, and the wood burning stove would not have been a safe spot for them, they always hung on the handles of the pie safe in the dining room.

My dad took care of the outdoor decorations, and I loved to help. We would wrap red plastic ribbon around the white porch posts to resemble peppermint sticks–something I still prefer to do… The old school mutli-color large bulb stands of lights went on the porch and around the living room picture window. A plastic textured Rudolph, purchased from 4-H club fundraiser, was hung on the porch.

Eventually, we added the lighted nativity scene. My mom and I somehow managed to get this home from a trip to Olney. We hadn’t thought about it not fitting in the Granada. So, we had to take everything out of the box to squeeze the plastic figures into the car… I was able to hang onto it and use it several years. Things went downhill when Baby Jesus and Mary wouldn’t light up anymore. I was afraid people would think I was being disrespectful or protesting if only Joseph was illuminated…

Not only did we have a few lights, our family loved to visit light displays. Pretty much every year, we went to Ingraham’s display near Olney and Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort. We often visited the light display in the Olney Park as well. When I was 7, I had Chicken Pox on Christmas. That was the year I remember visiting Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort

Shopping malls used to be a destination as much to see the Christmas decor as to shop. Every year, there used to be sparkly Christmas trees on the roof of the Centralia strip mall. Carbondale, Effingham, and Fairview Heights all had malls that were nicely decorated. My brother and I sometimes saw Santa Claus at a store, but we also used to go to Xenia when he came to town.

We visited lots of family at Christmastime. I think probably every Christmas Eve I can remember was at my aunt and uncle’s home in Goreville and eventually Marion. We usually visited with my Salem family on Christmas sometime after we had done the Christmas morning thing at home. I have many fond memories of these times. We ate wonderful food and often played board games or just joked around with cousins, aunts, and uncles. It may not have been on Christmas Day, but we also made the rounds to see family in Centralia, Cisne, and Kinmundy.

My kids have been fortunate to spend some Christmases playing with cousins when they were younger. Unfortunately, as people grow older and busier, we tend to lose some of that connection. I pray that you and your family are able to create and hold onto fond Christmas memories too.

Advertisements

A Community Tradition of Harvesting Memories

The Carterville Lion’s Club Free Fair kicked off this Wednesday in Cannon Park with the Farmer’s Market and runs through Saturday, September 8, 2018. This year’s theme is 105 Years of Our Tradition: Harvest the Memories. The Free Fair is a family-friendly event where many gather each year for some good, clean fun.

Friday evening features a 5K Twilight Glow Run and Poker Walk as part of the event festivities. Jackson Junction will be performing from 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm.

Saturday’s lineup includes a parade at 10:00 am, the Lioness Cake Walk, and Stride Pro Wrestling. Debbie Browning is this year’s Parade Marshall. Some of this year’s free events are a pet fair, children’s eye screenings, Identi-Kid services, Emery Brothers Roller Skating, a Ping Pong Avalanche, and hands on healthy snack and eating demos from the Carbondale Neighborhood Co-op Grocery.

Carnival rides, games, and bingo will be operating Friday evening and Saturday. Arm bands are $24 and single tickets are $3.

Additional info is available on the event’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeFairPageant/

Impromptu Picnics

Some of my earliest family memories of road trips and adventures involve picnics. My parents were great at them.

When my brother and I were really little, our parents had a Pacer.(For those who dont know the car, it’s what Garth and Wayne drove in “Wayne’s World.”) This was before the days of expensive booster seats. The back car seat would fold down, and we could look up at the stars as we traveled through the state or country. It was handy for picnics if it rained or other conditions were unfavorable.

I still remember one hot, muggy summer, that we went to Horseshoe Lake in the Shawnee National Forest. Unfortunately, millions of mosquitos also were vacationing there that day. We had our picnic in the Pacer. Although it may not have been ideal outside the vehicle, but it made for a great memory.

Recently, my brother and I were discussing mushroom hunting, something else we did with our parents at a very young age. We seem to remember a picnic on a field in the woods on one of our earliest family morel hunting adventures. Priceless family time together that means even more to us as we get older.

I can also remember picnics in Giant City State Park as a kid when my dad was doing some post-graduate work at SIU-Carbondale one summer. We would all get up early for the drive down to campus. Then my mom would drop my dad off for his class. She would take my brother and I on some type of adventure in Carbondale before we picked my dad up for lunch. That might be shopping at the mall or searching for frogurt on the north end of town. Sometimes she would bring a picnic. Dad was usually able to join us on lunch break to eat.

When my children were pretty young, I started having picnics with them. This was a way to have a family meal together once I picked them up from daycare and headed on to their soccer practice or VBS (Vacation Bible School.) Sometimes I was able to plan these ahead, and sometimes life intervened. That’s when we went with the impromptu picnic option.

An impromptu picnic can be pulled together from treats at a roadside stand, carry-out from your favorite restaurant, or fresh food from a farmer’s market or roadside stand. We are blessed to have these options in Southern Illinois. For the VBS version of the impromptu picnic, it often meant grabbing something on my lunch hour that I could refrigerate and then assemble after work, if needed, in time to grab the kids before practice or church. Sometimes it was a trip through a drive thru. We also also have some wonderful local delis and markets that can either make sandwiches or help you pick out some easy picnic treats. Oh, and don’t forget the wineries and breweries (if you are of age, of course.) Some of those may also have picnic goodies.

If you opt to pick up an adult beverage for your impromptu picnic, please be conscious of where alcohol is allowed and be safe. Not all picnic areas allow alcohol, and some only permit specific containers. You may need to hop online and do a bit of quick research to make sure you stay legal.

Another option is to fix something at the picnic site. In the picnic pictured, we had decided to grab some groceries to fix and head to the Natural Bridge at Pomona. There is a little picnic spot by the parking area. After hiking to see the bridge, Mijo fixed some tuna salad for our sandwiches. It made a nice family outing without a lot of planning and prepping involved.

Be creative this summer and enjoy time with your family and friends. Head to a favorite spot, or explore a part of Southern Illinois (or anywhere) you haven’t seen before. You might even grab some muffins, donuts, or fruit with juice or coffee and have an impromptu breakfast picnic. Watch the sunrise someplace beautiful. Now go, make some delicious memories!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…in Carterville

  

     Beautiful lights and decorations, horse drawn carriage rides, hot chocolate, Christmas shopping, and friendly folks can only mean one thing:  It’s time for Christmas in Carterville. Friday, December 2, 2016, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, downtown Carterville becomes a celebration that anyone familiar with “Gilmore Girls” would expect to find in Stars Hollow. 

     This year, the event has added a Christmas cookie contest. There are even more unique businesses to visit downtown. Botski’s, a cafĂ© and coffee shop, and Live Simple Shop are among the unique spots that have opened in newly renovated spaces on Division Street. If you are searching for hard to find Christmas gifts, you may find something in one of the antique stores or have something made at Live Simple Shop. 

     Besides the downtown businesses staying open late, many other vendors will be on site. Some of these are Ginger Snaps, kettlecorn, homemade salad dressing, Lipsense, Scentsy, Toy Copters, and more! 

     Some of the family-friendly activities include free hot dogs, carriage rides for a suggested donation of three dollars, and selfies with elves. The elves will also be around to assist folks in navigating the celebration. Free entertainment is set to include a performance by Arabesque Sugar Plum dancers as well as a group of line dancing ladies on the main stage. Kids will have an opportunity to write letters to Santa at Malone’s and also visit the Santa House. Local fireman will climb the truck ladder and conduct a “Snowball Drop” for the kids. 

     For more information, including a video Q&A session on the event, you may visit the Christmas in Carterville Facebook page. 

A Bit of the Fort de Chartres Rendevous

This past weekend, I took a short road trip with my brother to see the Fort de Chartres Rendevous at the Prairie du Rocher fort. Now, bear in mind that he actually has a degree in history while I just managed to pass the course. I tend to be as intrigued with the food and shopping venue as the rest. However, he managed to keep me focused.

As he pointed out, many of us tend to forget that Illinois has french ancestors. The on site museum has displays that address the early days in the southwest part of the state. I am not sure if it has regular hours through the week or not. Most of the vendors and battle reinactment actors arrive on the first Friday in June and depart on the Sunday.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image