Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Homemade Holidays

Happy Monday! Did you know that today, December 9th, is National Pastry Day? Thus, it’s a great time to make those special holiday pies and tarts! In honor of this day, at the end of this blog entry, I’m including Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe (which, originally, came from her mom; but Mom thought it was a great imitation of the Baker’s Square product). I posted it in one of my early blog entries and it can also be found on the “Recipes” tab of this web site.

Debates are going on as to whether traditions are a joy to continue or a chore. There’s a great article about that very thing at https://sixtyandme.com/what-are-your-favorite-christmas-memories-and-traditions/. I just finished filling out my traditional Christmas cards this weekend and, like Mom, it started out with lots of joy and excitement and wishes for the receivers but, about half way through my address book, I started feeling like it was a chore; thus, my notes and wishes became shorter and shorter. As seen in last week’s blog entry [*with an additional paragraph added to it this week]…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

*Christmas cards for our family have always found us writing newsy notes to those on our list, alphabetically, from the Andreason’s to the Groff’s [names]… I manage to tell them about the five kids, but before I am through the names on our list that begin with ‘H’, I’ve run out of synonyms for IMPOSSIBLE! From the Hudson’s through Zillich, I find that my newsy little notes have usually dwindled to just plain ‘Hi!’

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

After writing about traditions in last week’s blog entry (titled the same), I couldn’t turn off the memories of my childhood holidays and all the traditions, including all the things that Mom usually made by hand just to make the season more special for all of us. It’s no secret that, before Secret RecipesTM took off, money was usually tight for our family of seven (nine, if you count the dog and cat!) Therefore, a lot of what we enjoyed during the holidays – be it greeting cards, food, gifts, decorations, clothes, etc. – was homemade simply to ease the budget.

Between Mom making our “treats” budget stretch and requests from her readers (when she was writing newspaper columns that focused on homemakers), that’s what inspired the “legend” we came to know as the Recipe DetectiveTM! Mom loved to imitate famous foods from famous places so we could enjoy eating out – right at home and at less of a cost! Homemade fast food and junk food – who’d have thought…!

Mom & Phil Donahue, during her 2nd appearance on his show. (1993)

As it turned out, there were millions of people who wanted to learn how to do the same for their families and they learned it from Mom, first. Now, there are all kinds of “copycats” who copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT… yet, none of them give her the proper credit she deserves for having inspired them. The biggest culprit is Todd Wilbur, who continues to lie about from where he got his inspiration – saying it was from a Mrs. Field’s cookie recipe, but it was actually from one of Mom’s cookbooks that he ordered after her FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Anyway, out of that rabbit hole and on to…

My childhood memories of by-gone holidays took me back to Mom’s (and Grandma’s) homemade holiday treats – such as the traditional rum-soaked fruitcake, bite-sized squares of Christmas fudge, little pastry tarts, a wide-variety of cookies and pies, hot fudge sauce, chunks of peanut brittle and, of course, the candy-covered gingerbread house.

All the memories and missing my parents have me craving the old-fashioned (and priceless) homemade holidays. When my own children were growing up and money was tight for our family, as well, we would often have homemade holidays. I still treasure all the artwork and ceramic/clay creations that my kids made for me every holiday.

Likewise, I remember Mom’s homemade gifts more often than any of the store-bought ones. My all-time favorite was a “rag” doll she made for me from scraps of material, yarn, ribbons and buttons. Oh, how I wish I still had it! Now, in hind-sight, I realize just how much love Mom poured into all of our homemade holidays.

I must say, I miss the treats immensely! Maybe I pine for them so much because I can’t have those kinds of things any longer – not if I want to continue controlling my weight and sugar levels and, thereby, my health, as well. As the old idiom imparts, “absence makes the heart grow fonder!” This holiday season, I’m determined to find ways to imitate my favorite treats in some low-carb way so that I can enjoy them once again!

The cards, treats and gifts weren’t the only things that were homemade. So were many decorations. I mentioned in my blog entries, many times, that Mom was very crafty. I remember some Christmas crafts Mom would do with us kids, back in the 1970s, making angels out of her old Reader’s Digest magazines and ornaments out of homemade salt dough.

Me and Mom – 1971 & 2016

At Christmas time, I liked to do those crafts with my children when they were little, as well. Together, we also collected various kinds of pine cones and branches, chestnuts and acorns – all with which to make winter bird feeders, wreaths and garland. We also strung popcorn to wrap around the christmas tree like garland.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)

Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!

The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!

The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)

Pitzer kids, group shot – Christmas Eve, 1969

LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!

We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.

But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…

So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!

Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!

You really don’t need to be crafty to create a homemade holiday celebration with anything and everything from food to gifts to decorations. Barely more than a few decades ago, home computers were not a common thing – having a complete set of encyclopedias (in hard copy) was a must – we didn’t have the endless concepts, floating around the internet, like you have currently.

Nowadays, ideas and instructions for making just about anything and everything can be found on the world wide web by typing just a few key words into a search box. The knowledge of the world is, literally, at our finger tips! Pinterest is usually my first go-to-source for ideas and inspirations on the web, but I also like to use Bing, Google and YouTube, as well.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

My favorite inexpensive, homemade gift ideas use a Mason jar! Any size or style you choose, these jars are so versatile – and reusable too! They can be filled with dry mix ingredients and a recipe card for making/baking the product. They can be filled with natural elements (like pine sprigs, cinnamon, etc.) for potpourri that can be simmered in a pot of water on the stove. They can be filled with homemade soaps or salves – there are so many “how to” sites on the web, from which to gather many inspirations and instructions.

Pinterest is my favorite “search engine” for inspiration and ideas that I can’t find in my mom’s books, first. My own personal page at Pinterest, ldemerich(which I started years ago), can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ldemerich and has quite an eclectic collection of boards; while the OFFICIAL page of The Recipe DetectiveTM (which represents Mom, her last cookbook and her website) can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective. Keep in mind – that page is still building up boards and is a continuous work in progress (WIP), as is this website, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalPastryDay

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Either form (or both) will make GREAT Christmas gifts!

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