Welcome to Christmas Card Lane


Christmas card lane, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2012

While out running this morning, I noticed one of my neighbors had placed a quaint reminder of Christmas long ago in his front yard: a handmade, painted Christmas card sign, propped up in the front yard, with a spot light to illuminate it at night. “Seasons greetings from the _______” it proclaimed, it’s elf and reindeer resplendent upon the four by four sheet of genuine plywood. Seeing this immediately brought me back to  a simpler time, when folks in my city lined up in their cars to see  “Christmas Card Lane” each Christmas season.

There was a certain street in my city which  each year, proclaimed itself “Christmas Card Lane.” Residents erected a huge sign at the entrance to the street, which said “Welcome to Christmas Card Lane” painted  across a Currier and Ives  back ground. Then, for about the next three weeks, cars would line up nightly to drive down Christmas Card Lane and see the handmade Christmas cards that the majority of the homeowners displayed in their front yards. More than once we joined this queue, kids in the back seat, slowly creeping down the street among the bumper to bumper cars, to look at the homemade painted Christmas card signs propped up in the snowy yards of nearly every home.This was more than just a custom of a neighborhood putting out plywood Christmas cards.  No doubt the neighbors had a meeting each year to decide on the details for the Christmas card display, and helped each other put up and take down their signs. This simple event built community and fostered neighborly togetherness. No matter what your faith, how could you not like a neighbor who put a large message of peace and love in their front yard each year?

Today, this all sounds terribly quaint. I don’t think I’ve seen the big Christmas Card Lane sign for some time now. I expect that as the original homeowners died or moved away, new residents moving in probably said “What? Once a year we have to make a giant Christmas card, and set it up in our yard, so we can be held hostage in our own driveway while strangers clog up our street with traffic?” Today, folks are probably much too occupied to spend an hour or two on a snowy night driving slowly up and down a street to look at homemade Christmas yard signs. The kids in the back seat would no doubt be texting instead of peering out the windows with their noses pushed up against the cool glass. They might glance up from time to time, if only to film the spectacle to put on YouTube – with a title like “My parents are holding me hostage on Christmas Card Lane.”

But, it wasn’t just about driving down a street to see Christmas yard signs. It was about a family doing something traditional together, in a relaxing, unscheduled way. It usually involved hot chocolate and cookies after, with all of us gathered around the table, and nothing else distracting us or calling us away. No TV, smart phones or texts. What could be more important than a relaxing evening with your kids, doing nothing better than just being together?

Maybe my neighbor, with his plywood seasons greeting, will start a new tradition for my community. I think it would be a good thing.

© Huffygirl 2012

Related link: Waiting for Santa (huffygirl.wordpress.com)

No Christmas tree? No problem


One Christmas three years ago, our house was in a disarray. We were in the midst of a kitchen-family room remodeling project. We had moved our entire kitchen and dining room into the living room because of the construction. There was no room for a Christmas tree. We had been miserable for a month with no heat in the construction part of the house, no kitchen, and no room. But I was determined that amidst this mess we would somehow save Christmas and have at least a little Christmas tree. I had a little Norfolk pine tree. On a trip to Ireland a few years earlier, I had bought a bottle labeled “Magic Christmas Spray.” Could my magic spray save Christmas? I read the directions:”Magic Christmas spray is very powerful. Use sparring.” I decided to give it a try.

 I took the little tree, sprayed a little bit of Magic Christmas Spray, stood back, and voila’ – a Christmas tree just the right size to fit in the middle of our construction mess.

Merry Christmas to all and peace to you wherever you are this time of year.

© Huffygirl 2011

An Easter tradition: Potica


One of my earliest childhood memories involving food was the potica (poppy-seed bread) that Grandma always mailed to us at Easter. This is a traditional bread for Slovenians and other Europeans. Every Easter, along with the other traditional foods of ham, polish sausage, potato salad and colorful hard-boiled eggs, my family always had this sweet delightful bread. Yes, I know this meal sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, but somehow we all escaped heart disease. 

Potica, aka poppy-seed* bread, is a light, slightly sweet bread that we always ate with the meal, but could also be served as a dessert. Grandma made this bread every year, along with a nut-filled variety that never really caught on with us. Each year right before Easter we’d anxiously await the big cardboard box in the mail, filled with potica and assorted Easter candy. Sometimes the box would arrive partly open or semi-crushed but everything inside would still be a delight.

Finally, when Grandma was gone, we learned to make potica ourselves. Maybe there was a written recipe at one time, but none of us ever saw it. It wouldn’t have done us any good anyway, as it surely would have been written in Slovenian. This recipe is one my sister found long ago in Good Housekeeping  magazine that we all agreed was as close to Grandma’s as we could ever get. I use Solo canned poppy-seed filling, but I’m sure Grandma made her own. Since this is a yeast bread, figure on staying nearby for three-four hours. Alternatively, one can make the dough one day, put it in the refrigerator to rise overnight, and finish it the next day. Or the best way? If you have a bread machine, use the dough cycle for the first part. It eliminates all the beating, stirring and kneading, and turns out just as good. If you don’t have a bread machine, you can probably pick one up at a local thrift store for under $20.

Potica (makes 2 loaves)

In a saucepan or microwave bowl, heat together

1 cup milk or soy milk

1/2 cup butter or margarine, until very warm, about 115 degrees Farenheit. (Butter does not need to completely melt.)

In a large bowl mix:

1/2 cup white sugar

1-2 teaspoons dried or fresh grated lemon peel (optional)

1 package dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour,  then add the milk mixture.

With mixer on low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients, just until mixed. Increase speed to medium, beating in

1 egg

1 cup of flour or enough flour to make the dough thick. Beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

With spoon, stir in enough additional flour, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups, to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured cloth and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour, or overnight in refrigerator.

(Alternatively, place all ingredients in a bread machine, wet ingredients first and yeast on top,  and run the dough cycle. This replaces the mixing, kneading and first rising and is a lot less work!)

After rising,  punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured cloth. Cut dough in half, cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, grease two cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper and make the poppy-seed filling:

In a medium bowl, beat 1 egg white (save the egg yolk for later) until soft peaks form. Add

1 12-ounce can of Solo Poppy Seed Filling

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

On a floured cloth with a rolling pin, roll out half of the dough into a rectangle, about 12 inches by 18 inches. Dough may be difficult to roll out – be patient. Spread half the filling onto the dough. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough jelly roll fashion, and place on a cookie sheet. Pinch the ends shut. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Beat 1 or 2 egg yolks and spread over the loaves with a pastry brush. Bake loaves 25-30 minutes, until browned and sound hollow when tapped in the middle. Cool on wire racks.

 

Related link: Nut-filled Potica recipe

*This bread should not be eaten by anyone who might be needing to take a drug test within a few days, as poppy seeds can cause false-positive results.

 © Huffygirl

Old favorites


I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Today I’m taking the day off from blogging to clean up at home after a great week with family here. So if you’re looking for a blog to read today, try some of my old favorites. 

Feeling like you need to work off some of the Thanksgiving calories? Check out my series on how to exercise at home. (Category: exercise and fitness)

Wondering if you ate too much of the wrong foods? Check out my blogs on America’s love affair with food.(Category: Health and Wellness)

Wishing you hadn’t overindulged? Maybe you need Fencester.  (Category: Satire Friday – Invisible Fence)

Of just feeling like you need a good laugh? Check out the Satire Friday category.

Christmas shopping? How about a heart rate monitor? (Category: HuffyHow – How to buy a heart rate monitor)

Spent too much time in the kitchen? Try Kitchen nirvana (Category: Satire Friday)

Happy reading and look for  new posts this coming week. 

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