It’s December already!

It’s December, which means it’s almost Christmas. Where has winter_scenethe year gone? Remember when we were children and the winter break seemed to take forever to get here? Now the days and months fly by.

I’m no longer the gazelle that I once was. But I refuse to give into my limitations. Sometimes that means I must get creative. Tennis balls have become my friends. I’ll lean against a wall and drop one down my back. The trick is to drop it just enough to catch with the back and not let fall on the floor. It’s the best massage. Just wiggle it over the entire back without letting it fall. Or you’ll be chasing the dog for it.

Drop one into an old sock and you can toss against the ceiling to collect dust webs. I promise there is nothing out there with a long enough handle to reach in this old house. The staircase is the worst! I think it can be considered a form of exercise. Toss and catch. Turn up the music and have fun.

Mannheim Steamroller and TSO are my favorite CD’s to play while I’m “working” in my house this time of year. Mannheim Steamroller allows me to chill and TSO amps me up to do the almost impossible. December for me is more than just Christmas decorations – it’s when I change the batteries in my smoke alarms. I know that sounds silly, but somehow I remember to change them while I’m doing all the cleaning with tennis balls. Just as I remember to change the air filters on the forced air heating system on the first of each month and the flea meds go on the cat. That’s the way I remember that the smoke alarm batteries are changed in December. I’m a creature of habit!

I gave up on the cut Christmas tree. It used to be fun to go walk through the tree farm and find the perfect one. But dragging home a twelve-foot tree on the roof of my car, trimming the cut edge from the bottom and skimming some bark to expose the cambium layer so that it can drink doesn’t hold much appeal. I’ve settled for a cheap little tree that sits on a table and doesn’t need to be watered. I don’t even drag out the all the old heirloom decorations, and I have some that go back to the 1800’s. This one, I pick out of the closet, plug it in, and cover it with cheap balls because the cat thinks the balls are his play toys!

I decorate the mantles and the porch is lucky if it gets a wreath on the door. I really am a homebody and would be hard-pressed to tell you the last time someone actually set foot in my house at Christmastime. My children invite me to their houses and don’t bother to come here. Whatever I do, I do for myself. I’ve really gotten into decorating the mantles. I don’t have to worry about the animals getting into whatever I put there and there are plenty of mantles in this old house.

I’m not sure why other than it allows me to express my creative side without a big hassle. I don’t need a ladder, except over the living room mantle, for I put a wreath there. It’s also easy for me to pack up and put away after the holidays. Traditionally (Iheavy_snow3 told you I was a creature of habit!) I do the whole decorating thing the first weekend in December. That gives me a few more days to play with the tennis ball. And skipping that big tree, also means I don’t have to water it or worry about pine needles dropping. Yep! It’s a new way of life. It’s different, but it’s really not bad. I kinda like it. Less pressure, more fun, I don’t have to worry about leaving reindeer food outside because Santa doesn’t need to stop here anymore.

No cookies to bake, so nothing to tempt me into eating something I shouldn’t be putting in my mouth. Even my granddaughters have learned to make the traditional foods of our family. I’m FREE! Okay, it’s super quiet around here, but that’s fine with me. My family gets together on Christmas Eve. I’ve told my children it’s the one time I get to demand their attention. They can go with spouses on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I get Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve was always the big meal in my house. Years later, I discovered my mom’s reason behind that. She wanted Christmas off to enjoy the day, too. We’d have a ham and plenty of things like potato salad on Christmas Eve, which become the perfect leftovers for Christmas day. My husband grew up with a very late night meal. After Mass, he’d go to his grandmother’s house for a huge meal. And Santa always came while he was at Mass.

So when we married it was easy to blend traditions, and I’ll admit I loved not having to worry much with Christmas dinner. It meant I got time to spend on the floor with my children and their new toys. It was a quiet and relaxing day.

My husband and I married in November so the first thing we had to straighten out was Christmas. What traditions mean the most to us? Blending holidays and traditions is always important!

For me, it was springhouse cookies. Now you would call them refrigerator cookies for the batter is made and placed in the springhouse/ refrigerator for at least 24 hours before baking. They are also jokingly referred to as ugly brown cookies, but they taste delicious.

From my husband came tourtiere or “took-kay.” (The French Canadians slur everything. LOL) The real trick was to make enough that I actually had some for Christmas morning. Okay, I figured out how to cheat on the recipe! OMG! I’m not into slaving in the kitchen and I’m not going to start by roasting a whole loin to do it!

Although my mother-in-law thought that was the only way to make it. The Christmas before my husband died, we drove to his parents’ house on Christmas day and I brought two pies with me. My MIL was well into her eighties and no longer doing the cooking that she had once done, for age and health problems were catching up to her. So I made extra tourtiere to take with us. My MIL put her nose in the air and refused to even taste my pies, but my FIL chowed down on the pies with gusto and proclaimed mine as the best he’d ever tasted. (I cringed and hoped my MIL did not hear his praise! But that MIL/DIL story is best left unspoken. Let’s just say I envy those who have a wonderful relationship with their MIL.)

The trick is to make friends with the butcher at the grocery store or at least talk to him or her a week ahead of time. Start with good lean ground pork! I actually made one and took it to the butcher, as he knew what I was making and hadn’t had it since he was a small child.

Seriously, it’s a love-hate food. Either people love it or hate to with no middle road. This should be enough for two big pies. If you used too many potatoes, or small pie plate, you’ve got three pies. If you’ve got a cup of filling leftover, you can make omelets and use it for the filling.

Tourtiere

1 pound of lean ground pork

1/2 mild onion or use onion powder to taste

3-4 medium potatoes boiled and chopped up into fine pieces- not quite mashed but almost.

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of cloves

a little salt to taste

real butter

two-three packages of pork gravy (I told you I learned to cheat!)

Drop a wedge of butter into a pan and then add the finely chopped onion. Fry until they are nicely caramelized. I liked the onion very finely diced – hated big globs of onion in the pie. Then add the meat and cook until there is no more pink. Add the potatoes and one packet of prepared gravy from the mix. (Make sure it’s gravy and you’re not dumping the powder and water in the pan. It doesn’t work. I tried that. LOL)

Bake between two pie crusts in a 425 F degree oven until brown. If you need a need a good pie crust recipe, let me know. (That big company that makes the refrigerated pie crust – doesn’t work. It’s too sweet. It’s perfect for something like apple pie, but it’s not suitable for a meat pie.) I promise pie crusts are very easy to make!

You know how you’re supposed to puncture the piecrust so the steam escapes? I’d use a toothpick and make decorations on the top, instead of the three little slits. Remember how you drew Christmas trees as a child? Do it on the pie! It’s adorable! If you are really creative grab the knife and draw pine branches. Let the kids do it! Christmas balls or whatever suits your fancy. Have fun. No one will see it but your immediate family.

Since the filling is cooked, and the pie is baked, I’d put it in the oven on low when we’d get up on Christmas morning and let it warm up. Then I’d make the gravy after everyone opened the presents because it only takes few minutes to make pork gravy from a package. Yes, it was our breakfast. Strange breakfast food but if you are French Canadian, it’s pretty normal.

I’ve got three books this year to keep you cozy warm through the holidays:

A Christmas on Main Street with the Authors of Main Street box setand you can’t beat the price for eleven wonderful Christmas books! Amazon http://amzn.com/B00GCPPALG

B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-on-main-street-stephanie-queen/1117394281?ean=2940148958994

amazon imageSweetwater Springs Christmas with Debra Holland and Friends is my first foray into historical western romance. And that story led me to A Rancher’s Woman, which will be out shortly. http://amzn.com/B00G06W3SA

A Holiday Anthology with the Exquisite Quills a series of very eq cover swshort stories to warm you heart this holiday season and it’s free on Smashwords. What happens during the holiday when one is a gentile and the other is Jewish? Read The Kissing Ball.  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/374815

And my River City novels about young urbanites are going on sale on Amazon for the month of December! So grab them while they are on sale.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone, and for those who celebrate Hanukkah, Happy Hanukkah! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday no matter how you celebrate it. It’s a time for peace, reflection, renewal, roots, faith, family, and fun!

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8 Responses to It’s December already!

  1. leighmorgan1 says:

    Merry Christmas, E! I wish I was more prepared than for the holiday. I still have my Christmas letter to write and all our decorating to do, although I did get a jump this weekend on making holiday candles. Where did this year go? 🙂

    Can’t wait to try the recipe, my family loves meat pie and although I’ve never made one with pork, Tourtiere sounds delicious.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I think what catches people is the taste of cinnamon and clove with their meat. We tend to think of that as dessert spices not main meal, but when you look at traditional recipes, you find many cultures use spices that we place in the dessert category on their main dishes. The Mexican use mole which is cocoa over things like chicken, the Germans use ginger with their meats. Thai and East Indian food use lots of spices.

      I like the uniqueness of it. I do hope your family enjoys Tourtiere. It’s quite easy to make. I can’t wait to hear your family’s response.

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  2. Jill James says:

    E., what wonderful Christmas memories. We are toning down this year with the two kitties. They climb everything and I’m not losing 100 year old ornaments to them. So little tree tied down to a table and fingers crossed. 🙂

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Warning, kittens climb trees! They do make a spray that is supposed to keep the cats away and off of things. I’ve had spray all sorts of things to keep Hook away. He loves chewing on electrical cords, especially USB cords! So I spray all cords about once every six months. But I’m afraid to spray ornaments for fear I’ll ruin or discolor them, so I just pick them up off the floor every morning and hang them again.
      🙂

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  3. Carol says:

    E. you have some wonderful memories. Good or bad. 🙂 I’ve never made Tourtiere, but definitely going to give it a try. We don’t have kitties, still I’ve cut down my decorating over the years. I did buy a pre-lit tree last year. Hope it still works. Merry Christmas!

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Truthfully I was very young when I married, so I never dreamed of crossing my MIL or even attempting to stand up for myself. As I got older, I realize that her own insecurities were what created most of the problems. When I look back now, I can laugh.

      Yes, pre-lit! Stand it up and plug it in! I love it. Those miles and miles of electrical lights can sit in the attic.

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  4. Mona Risk says:

    Hi E., like you I use a small pre-lit Christmas tree and I put it on a side table. Not enough space in an apartment for a real tree. But I cook a lot because the children and grandchildren come and expect their favorite meals. I never made a Tourtiere, but I ate it at a friend’s.

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