Well, here we are riding the crest of the the biggest holiday shopping period. Infused with the holiday spirit frenzied shoppers will be pushing and shoving their way through the weekends hoping to grab hold of purportedly some of the greatest bargains of the year. Merchants were practically giving away TV’s last weekend simply for entering their stores, and tablets could be picked up for a song (so to speak). For me, I sat in my warm dining room with my flannel pajama bottoms on. My feet tucked in fuzzy slippers, fingers poised over my keyboard, I accomplished a bit of holiday magic for mine and theirs on Cyber Monday.
Whatever happened to Christmas? Is it somewhere buried beneath all the gift receipts?? Choirs, carolers, picking out a tree at the tree lot, and hot chocolate with huge marshmallows floating about on top are images I have of the the holidays. Are these time-honored holiday traditions to be tossed out one day with the crumpled Christmas wrapping? I hope not. I can’t even seem to locate a good old-fashioned Christmas movie to watch while baking my cookies. I’m looking for “It’s a Wonderful Life”, or “Miracle on 34th Street” (the original). Instead I’m left with passable but rather syrupy Hallmark offerings or a smattering of made for TV dysfunctional family movies. Another movie I never miss over the holidays is Christmas Vacation, which I finally located and taped. Even though I’ve seen Clark Griswold and ol’ Uncle Eddie over and over I still laugh every time. According to my television guide I have to pay to see many of these movies this year. Really? I’ve seen my cable bill. I’m sure I’ve already paid for the privilege many times over. Never does it cease to amaze me with a gazillion channels available to watch, when I sit down to actually view something I can’t find one thing of interest. Paid programming seems to dominate the airways late at night. With the flick of the remote you can find out about hair replacement, wrinkle cream, and how to manage your 401K.
Behind me my tree is happily blinking. Excited to be out of the box and assembled once again it shines gloriously for one month out of the year showing off for the other trees huddled in the rain outside my window. In my living room the card table is set up. Today I make felt mice to attach to the pile of candy canes sitting in the middle of it. Small gestures of appreciation for my friends at the food bank. Truly I have gotten more from them working there then I have ever been able to give back.
Ordering on-line has its pitfalls as well. Thieves are targeting front porch drop offs, waiting for the delivery truck to pull off then grabbing unattended packages. Some are actually following the trucks waiting for them to stop. The Grinch is alive and well and barreling down on Whoville once again this year I’m afraid. There’s another of my favorite Christmas movies, but I digress. One such thief even took his little daughter with him while stealing a package. There’s a holiday message for you, yes? The family that steals together ends up on Inside Edition together or something like that. What a legacy to pass on to your children. “Remember that Christmas when you and Daddy lifted that Kitchenaid Mixer from our neighbor’s house? Now that was a Christmas.” Perhaps a coffee cup appropriately depicting his “mug” shot would serve as a nostalgic reminder? Holiday cards are created from such moments. I’m sure the elves at Hallmark are on it as we speak. The Incarceration Christmas Series.
Shoplifting will be in high gear with the stores packed with holiday buyers. I watched a news piece the other day about pickpockets. A retired pickpocket showed in detail how easily he picked pockets when he was in the biz. How does that play out on your resume? Where do you go once you’ve retired from lifting wallets? Also, doesn’t this hone the skills for those amateurs not yet up to speed on their pocket picking skills? If they didn’t already know how to do it, surely now they’ve got the tools to move forward. You can always count on the media to provide those so inclined with the information to really create some misery out there in our world.
I watched pictures of people getting in fist fights over an electronic item. People camped out overnight in the cold to save $100 on a desired appliance. It would have to come with a winning lottery ticket to get me to entertain such an idea. There is nothing I need that badly.
Looking back I do remember one year when my children were still Santa followers. My daughter, Heather, had a favorite doll. Not sure if she’s still around but her name was Mrs. Beasley. She was fashioned after a doll on a TV show with Brian Keith called Family Affair. These days a show titled such as this would be a reality show, but back then it was a rather saccharine but surprisingly enjoyable TV series about a single dad and his two kids. Plot lines were similar to family series previewing before it, such as Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. Basically, the kids get in trouble, dad catches them, they learn a lesson, everybody gets ice cream. At any rate, Mrs. Beasley was a popular toy spawned from that series. My daughter’s first Mrs. Beasley met an unfortunate end flying out an open window on the way to Yosemite. Although we pulled over to rescue her, the last we saw of her she was caught under a tire headed south. Sigh. Heather was inconsolable. Santa, who fixes such situations, was alerted. Mrs. Beasley was added to the growing list of toys required from Santa’s industrious toy shop personnel on the 25th.
As Christmas approached a babysitter was hired and my husband and I hit the stores. First on the list was the elusive Mrs. Beasley. Easy peasey. After three stores and no luck a slight pang of panic crept in. No Mrs. Beasley was to be had. A popular lady at the time it appeared. A local store ran an ad a few days later featuring the bespectacled doll on the front page above a small print notice saying “supply limited – first come first serve”. At 5 a.m. I found myself sitting in front of a store in a lawn chair shivering waiting for the doors to open. One other person sat with me in the dark, and I’m not sure she wasn’t homeless. We would have spoken but our jaws were frozen shut. Finally, after three hours in the cold I was the first customer to enter the store. Making a mad dash for the doll section, I grabbed one of three Mrs. Beasley’s on a display rack. Holding her as though I’d just crawled across the desert and she was a glass of iced cold tea I paid the asking price, and would have paid much more. Never was she as wholly loved as the original. Heather explained this to me this way. “If our beloved cat, Kitty (I know) passed away, even if we got a new cat who looked exactly the same it still wouldn’t be Kitty.” Ah, the simple wisdom of children. In the end she was still well-loved and retired with grace when Heather entered middle school. I guess we all have something we’re willing to go the extra mile for.
These bars are pretty on the table resembling bark. Easy to put together as well. I originally snagged the recipe from Something Extra, Raley’s giveaway, but didn’t like the caramel drizzle so this is my version of their recipe.
Chocolate Toffee Bars
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 up Heath English Toffee bits
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. shortening
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 8″ square cake pan with foil. Coat with butter.
Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla extra. Add egg and mix well. Add flour and salt to butter mixture and stir slightly.
Stir in walnuts and toffee bits to form dough. Mix with hands if necessary.
Press dough into bottom of pan. Bake for 30 mins.
Make caramel drizzle below.
Remove bars from oven and allow to cool. Remove from pan and cut into 30 squares leaving room between each square.
Melt chocolate and 1/2 tsp. shortening in microwave for 1 min. 30 sec. on high.
Drizzle lines of chocolate across bars going one way and lines of caramel sauce going to other. Yum.
Makes 30 bars
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 to 1 tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream, butter, and salt until the butter has melted and the salt has completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add vanilla.
In larger saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat over a med.-high, swirling the pot occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.
Continue to boil the sugar mixture until the bubbles begin to get smaller and it becomes amber-colored.
Reduce the heat to low, and pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps or crystals.
Immediately transfer the hot mixture to a heat-safe vessel and cool slightly.
Credit for this lovely sauce goes to http://bakingamoment.com/simply-perfect-salted-caramel-sauce/.