Anna, thank you so much for letting me take part in your Holiday Cheer blog event. Everyone, be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of Wallpaper With Roses. And have a wonderful holiday!
1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Yes, please!
2. Share one of your favorite holiday memories. Could I share two? Both really stand out in my memory. When my son was not quite two, he came into the living room on Christmas morning and saw his grandparents’ present. It was too big to wrap, so he got the full impact of a huge, bright stuffed walrus. Honestly, the thing was bigger than he was. He toddled over to it and gave it a great big hug. We had to graduate him to a bigger bed as he refused to sleep without Fred! And a more adult memory is from a few years ago, when my mother was still with us, and we all, the whole family, went out in the mountains to a Christmas tree farm to get our tree. We found a beauty, the farm was a joy, with a roaring fire and hot cocoa to thaw out the tree hunters. Not a big, huge, front page memory, just a wonderful, warm family day to take out and cherish from time to time.
3. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Not giving presents. A few years after all the children became employed adults, they requested a halt in the extravagance. So now we get together. Mostly we eat, but it’s a good time to enjoy being together.
4. What is your favorite holiday song? When I’m being cynical about how the flavor of Christmas has changed over my lifetime, it’s Tom Lehrer’s ‘A Christmas Carol’…”Angels we have heard on high Tell us to go out and….BUY.”
5. What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? At the risk of being really sentimental, it’s family. We’re a dysfunctional but loving group, and this is the time of year when we realize how important we are to each other.
6. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition? A quiet time together enjoying the decorations. And the coffee. With a fire in the fireplace (if it’s not a Spare the Air day) And no, it’s not nearly as dull as it sounds. Life is such a busy rush that taking these times for contemplation and counting blessings is important to us.
7. Do you have a real or artificial tree? Oh, real please. And big.
8. What tops your tree? Depends on the tree and the mood of the trimmers. This year we got what is possibly the most beautiful tree ever. Except—you knew there had to be something, didn’t you?—the very top is so weird that the tree seller pointed out we might want a different tree. However. Some years we do a big bow on the top. This is definitely a bow-on-top year.
9. What color lights do you put on your tree? Again, depends on the mood. Usually little white lights, but sometimes we haul out the vintage big-bulb colored lights. Not so much any more, because modern replacement bulbs have much harsher colors. Oh well.
10. What is your favorite holiday dish? Can’t beat turkey. With gravy. Lots of gravy. (Somewhere this year I read that 1 c white wine poured over the turkey during the last half hour of cooking makes for wonderful gravy. Just saying.)
Recipe: This is a recipe that my mother got from a neighbor (Rachel Raby) about a thousand years ago. It quickly became a special-occasion treat in our family.
Inverted Lemon Pie
4 eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
¼ t cream of tartar
1 ½ c sugar
¼ c lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 c whipping cream, whipped (Rachel used Dream Whip. I don’t. Also I add a little sugar & vanilla to the cream used for topping.)
Make meringue shell:
Beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until stiff.
Add 1 c sugar very gradually. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy.
(Very Gradually is the key to meringue that doesn’t weep.)
Spread on greased pie pan, carrying to edge of rim.
Bake 25 minutes at 275°. Increase to 300° for 25 minutes, or until faint brown tinge has appeared. Cool.
Beat egg yolks until thick. Add remaining sugar, lemon juice, and grated rind.
Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until thick.
Remove from heat and cool.
Fold half of the whipped cream into the cooled filling and turn into the crust.
Top with remaining whipped cream.
Note: This is a very rich pie. It will serve more than 6. I usually cut it in eighths.
Wallpaper With Roses Blurb:
On the verge of achieving her long-held dream of starting her own business, Sarah Gault sees her independent life stripped away when she must move back to her childhood home to care for her elderly mother.
Hilda Gault never wanted to be a burden, but after a serious operation, life on her own becomes impossible. Determined to keep Sarah from worrying about her deteriorating condition, she tries to meet each new challenge with dignity and grace.
Stressed by mounting bills and her mother’s fragile health, Sarah has all she can handle. But when a neighbor loses her home and a pregnant woman in desperate need lands on their doorstep, Sarah opens her home to them both.
Embracing her new life, Sarah learns that sometimes family is a matter of the heart. And amidst the cycle of birth and death she finds the last thing she expected–the promise of romance.
Hilda jerked to her feet. “Enough, Sarah. I’m tired.” She carried her cup and saucer to the sink. “I am going upstairs to nap for a bit, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, Mama.”
But Hilda lingered by the window, looking out at her rose garden. A ray of sun slipped through the clouds and touched her, gilding the silver hair and mercilessly exposing each wrinkle.
Sarah stopped gathering the dishes and looked at her mother. She knew Hilda’s age, of course, and to forty-five, eighty-four sounded, well, old. But old had been only a word. The stark presentation in front of her now made her breath catch.
For the first time, she had a visceral understanding of old, of what the word really meant. What changes it would bring to her life. No, she screamed inside her head. She wasn’t ready for her mother to die.
Don’t leave me, she wanted to say. Instead she stared at the white hair, rendered coarse and lifeless in the sun, and wondered how she could bear what was coming. You’re supposed to be here for me. You’re supposed to take care of me.
Her mother turned to look at her, and the illusion vanished. “Did you say something, dear?”
Sarah cleared her throat. “No, Mama. Go and nap. I’ll run to the grocery and pick up some of that flavored creamer. The one you like so much.”
She groped her way out the back door, renewed determination to do everything she could to make this easier for her mother warring with the painful truth she’d just seen.