Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stories to Tell

I paid close attention to the words and...
put the word sparkle into tree decorating this year . The more glitz and lights the better by my standards. Some family members even suggested it was overkill. The flashy sparkling lights capped by circular glowing tree topper gives the tree a very festive appearance. 
Have you ever thought about how each ornament  hanging on your tree has a story to tell? Some stories that might be told would answer these questions; Where did this ornament come from? Was it a gift or a purchase? How long has your family had the ornament? Was it made especially for you? 
Some of these questions bring me  to these two ornaments.
The Mary and Baby Jesus toothpick stable ornament was made by my son in grade 4  and the play dough ornament (initials JR) was made by daughter in preschool). These are treasured ornaments with stories of their own how they ended up hanging on the tree.  
So perhaps as you decorate your own tree you might recall and reflect on a few stories of your own.   

According to the historical records the custom of decorating Christmas trees emerged in the early 16th C in Germany. Martin Luther decorated the first Christmas tree with candles to entertain the children. During this time Christmas trees were embellished with wafers, candies, fruits, paper flowers, hard cookies baked in various shapes and tinsels made from tin and silver.

Christmas tree ornaments reached America around 1880. F.W Woolworth, an American retailer first sold imported glass ornaments in his shop. Decorations also included cut outs from old magazines and tinsel. The first American-made glass ornaments were created by William DeMuth in New York in 1870.

By the 20th century, Woolworth's had imported 200,000 ornaments and topped $25 million in sales from Christmas decorations alone.The First World War disrupted natural commerce and necessitated the production of cheaper ornaments with new technologies.

Legend plays an important role in the history of Christmas ornaments. The popular pickle ornament is a German tradition that carries with it a wonderful tale. Pickle ornaments are glass ornaments formed in the shape of a pickle. There are many popular legends or myths.   
The Legend of the Pickle-
The Christmas pickle is not really a pickle at all, it is a pickle-shaped ornament. A very old Christmas Eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle ( ornament ) deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the first child to find the pickle on Christmas day would receive an extra gift from St Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year.

Perhaps the essence behind this family tradition is to take time to savor the moment with family and friends and while searching for the pickle enjoy the beauty of the tree and it's ornaments - teaching children to stop and enjoy the beauty of the season and not focus on the gifts under the tree.

Shoe Alert: Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day December 6th.  Shoes can be left outside the bedroom door on the evening of December 5th in hopes that St. Nicholas  will make a visit bringing cookies or a small gift.

Overnight Eggnog Streusel Coffee Cake

Since eggnog is a seasonal item one has to be quick to purchase a carton in the dairy section since supplies seem limited. This moist and flavorful cake is great for those holiday morning get-togethers. 
The recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker
Cook's notes: The coffee cake batter needs to be refrigerated at least 8 hours 
Streusel Topping
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 TB. softened butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup quick oatmeal
Coffee cake
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup eggnog at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup lite sour cream
  • 1 tsp. rum extract or 2 TB. rum or brandy
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 2-1/2 cups of flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Eggnog Glaze
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar 
  • 2 TB. eggnog (may need more to get correct glaze consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
  • Grease the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan 
  • In a small bowl mix streusel ingredients till well blended and set aside
  • In a large bowl beat sugar and butter at medium speed
  • Beat in eggnog, sour cream, rum extract, brandy or rum and eggs till well blended
  • Stir in dry ingredients and blend well 
  • Spread in pan and sprinkle streusel topping evenly over batter
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours
  • Uncover and bake in preheated oven @ 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean from the center 
  • Use a mixer to blend glaze ingredients  
  • Cool before drizzling glaze on

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