As I sit here writing this column, I am having a hard time deciding what to write about. I have done the cookie columns and the other typical holiday ideas and I am sure you really don’t want to read another holiday recipe. Instead I want to pass on an idea that I am working on and one that I think some of you might enjoy, too.
The purpose of this project is to establish a family tradition. When I researched the word TRADITION in the dictionary I found the following meaning: “custom or belief … a long-established custom or belief, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation”.
My kids will tell you that I have always been about traditions. Whether it is celebrating a birthday, a certain holiday or planning a summer get together, I want to make sure that it will be part of their memory of the past. Traditions or customs are something that we must establish and maintain.
To me, it is very sad to hear someone say they didn’t have a Christmas ritual or that they don’t get together at least once a year. Life is something that will come and go, but memories last forever.
OK, now on with the project. I am creating a memory box. I am preparing mine for my family and ask that each year they open it together and review what is in it and then decide on what new item or items they want to put in the box. Each year, this tradition is repeated with the kids sitting down together, reviewing the contents and adding additional items that represent memories from the past year.
Start by selecting a sturdy large box, preferably with a separate lid. You can use a gift box and cover it with holiday fabric or decorate with Christmas cards or anything that is a symbol of your life. You can also use one of the popular hat-style boxes available with beautiful winter or holiday scenes. They are very sturdy and are already designed for you. Once you have your box selected, it’s time to think about what you are going to put in it.
It will take you a little longer to select things that you want to put in the box the first year. Fill the box with items that will bring back memories of things that stand out in the life of the person you are making the box for. Include pictures, programs from special events, small awards or medals that person has won or maybe a picture or story they created.
I plan on including pictures of past vacations together as well as memories of family reunions. Each year a new item or items will be added allowing the box to grow, including current memories as well as past items. If you are creating a group box, select a different family member to add the gift each year. If you have a new “addition” to the family, be sure to add something that shows the arrival of that new bundle of joy.
Each of you will have your own ideas that depict something of interest to you. You don’t have to limit your new item to one thing, if this has been a great year, add great things. Remember, sometimes the smallest item from the past might bring back the biggest memory in the future. I don‘t know about you, but things just become more valuable to me with time. That’s what this box is all about.
Here are some of the items that I will put in my own box:
1) An old ornament that I have that means so much to me. It is one given to me by one of my ex change students many years ago.
2) Pictures of my children, taken each year. We had a tradition where my boys and their wives and families sat on my sofa (always in the same order) each year and I took a picture. It’s so much fun to pull them out and look how everyone has changed. Now they will right there in my memory box.
3) A picture of me when I was 15-years-old standing in front of my Christmas tree. I had on my first formal that I received as a Christmas present. It was blue and so beautiful and knows that my parent must have saved for months to be able to afford its cost of $29.98. (That was a lot of money in 1960!) I wore it to the annual Rainbow Girls Snowball Dance.
4) A handful of silver icicles. Remember when those where on everyone’s tree and how we began by placing them on one by one and then got tired and just throw on the last few?
5) A candy cane. Sometimes that, along with a toothbrush and an orange was all we got in our stocking. We use to cut a hole in the orange, stick in a piece of the candy cane and suck until the juice came through the candy. Oh how good that was!
6) A copy of the recipe for my mother’s famous caramels. We made them each year, cut and wrapped them in waxed paper. That was one of those favorite family traditions I was talking about.
Well, that will be a start. I am also making one for my husband’s kids so they can also have memories to pass on to their children and grandchildren. As the year goes on I will continue to find things that I will add to these boxes. They will be completely done by next December 25 and it will be unveiled with our families and will be the newest of our family traditions.
I hope you too will begin a “memory box”. It might not mean much to you right now, but I know your children and grandchildren will appreciate it many years from now.
In closing I want to wish all of my loyal readers a wonderful new year. Don’t waste the precious time that we have been given on this earth. Share it with the ones you love.
CARAMEL NUT MARSHMALLOWS
So easy and yet so good!
1 pound caramels, unwrapped
3 tablespoons evaporated milk (Carnation, etc.)
30 large marshmallows
1 ½ cups pecans chopped in medium sized pieces
Cover a countertop area or small baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
In a heavy 1 quart saucepan over low heat melt the caramels and milk until smooth. (Watch so they do not burn). Using a fork, toothpick or especially designed dipping tool, dip the marshmallows into the hot caramel until coated. Immediately roll the dipped marshmallow in the pecans. Place on the waxed paper. Let stand until firm. Store in a single layer in an airtight container.
MULLED DR. PEPPER
Try this as an alternative to punch.
8 cups Dr. Pepper (sugar-free works fine)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon “whole” cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 to 4 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients and place in a 3-quart crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours or until heated through. Discard cloves and cinnamon sticks before serving.
Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column “Welcome to My Kitchen” out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.