Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Traditions

I was thinking back about Christmas traditions in our family and had to smile as I remembered some very fun times with our boys. They were the best little helpers as we made our Christmas goodies. We started when the boys were very young making popcorn balls to deliver to all of our neighbors and friends. Every year we made lots and lots of popcorn balls of red, green and white. I remember Matt skating across the street during an ice storm once to deliver our treat to the neighbors one Christmas Eve. We loved those popcorn balls and would eat them until our mouths were sometimes sore. After we left Fairfax we have had several friends request we stop by with the popcorn balls. It's Annie Crowley's recipe...........everyone loves it.

Annie's Popcorn Balls

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white karo
1/2 stick butter
Stir to first bubble. Cover and let boil for exactly 2 minutes. Pour over two batches of popped corn and shape into balls.

How easy is that!

Our long time tradition for Christmas morning breakfast is our "Sugar Lump Bread", link sausages and Grandma Rigby's Orange Julius. We've had the same breakfast for at least 30 years on Christmas morning. If you can't tell, I'm a recipe nut and have a super collection from lots of family members.

Freshly Baked Sugar Lump Cinnamon Bread

A Crowley Family Favorite - I found this fun recipe in 1970 right after moving to the DC area.

We also always have a ham dinner on Christmas Day. This tradition goes back to our Neider Family in Idaho. My dad always made Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings and the ham had to be prepped just so with glaze and cloves, etc. He would sometimes let us put the cloves in the ham, but most of the time he insisted on doing it all himself. It was a very fun tradition.

Another fun thing in Tyhee was our Christmas deliverys. Since Dad and Mom had the IGA store in Tyhee, they would gather their kids each year and designate several families to receive a bushel basket of food. Dad would put the ham in the basket and then send us kids all over the store to select other items we felt were appropriate. I can still remember squealing with glee as we raced back to the basket. With a full basket the family would then deliver the goods. My parents were especially generous and it was a very memorable experience.

With my own children I love thinking of the sweet times. One FHE in November, we had the manger with a baby Jesus. Every time a good deed was performed we put new straw in the manger with the hope that by Christmas the manger would be nice and soft for the baby. After about three days, Andrew could no longer take it and filled it full so the baby would be comfortable. That Andrew likes to take care of everyone still.

One of the sweetest Christmas FHE's was when Andrew was our own little baby in the manger. He was just a perfect baby Jesus. Our Christmas FHE's were always memorable. We started the year Matt was a baby having a special FHE at Christmas and invited friends or family to come. Everyone had to be on the program in some way. They were so memorable. Last year we did the Christmas Story with little Charlotte in the manger and Lauren, Tanner and Carsen were shepherds. They were adorable.

So this year will be new for us. We are going to Matt and Gabe's for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Of course we will take our traditions with us and also enjoy Matt and Gabe's. It will be such a delight to be with them and watch our darling Charlotte enjoy the awe of Christmas.

It's been a quiet Season for us and we have happily navigated it very differently. We are so thankful for all of our Christmas' and the sweet spirit that surrounds and fills our home. The hustle bustle isn't here and it feels serenely peaceful. We'll still have the sugar lump bread, the divinity and maybe some caramels, but it's very quiet. I'm not even going to look at the part of our beautiful tree where the string of lights went out today. It just won't bother me this year. I'm just going to think about our fun traditions.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Is it REALLY December?

Wow! How do you say............STOP! I need more time. Thanksgiving flew by so quickly, it seems like a blur. And. it seems like I was just anticipating the Freslings arrival on the 22nd. Well, arrive they did and what a wonderful week the Crowley gang had. It was very over the top with smooching the chubby cheeks of Emery and Audrey -- snuggling with Tanner and Carsen -- and watching Charlotte discover her cousins.

Cute picture stolen from Shelly's blog - missing Charlotte

Tanner, Audrey, Emery & Carsen

So here's what we did:

1. We hosted an amazing dinner on Sunday, November 23rd. Rich's best friend and best man from Boise was here with his wife (Jack and Ruth Haight). They now live in Colorado and were here visiting Stacy who just moved here with her darling family. Joining us were Matt, Gabers and Charlotte, Jeremy, Shelly, Tanner, Carsen, and Emery, and Andrew, Melanie, and Audrey. Okay...........that was 17 for dinner. What fun.

2. After the Haights left, we had a little birthday party for Tanner and Carsen. Those handsome young grandsons are 5 and 7 now. We took advantage of the whole gang being together to celebrate.

Another picture stolen from Shelly's Blog

Carsen and Tanner

3. Monday & Tues - fun with all the Peperhead's and Freshlings. The big event of the day was taking Shelly shopping and to lunch for her birthday. (Sept) We ended up at the Vera Bradley & Brighton boutique for quite awhile.

Shelly's Bag

We reserved some items for Black Friday. Then we had lunch at Frost's Cafe. This is a little Main Street Cafe that has been in Culpeper forever. Margo and I ate there last week. A very 50's place. In other words, they haven't changed the decor since then.

4. Now it's Wednesday and Andrew and Melanie arrived to stay for the rest of the week. We ended up having a little mini Christmas celebration as Andrew and Jeremy's families will be away celebrating in Calif & Utah. What a night. Just to summarize: Everyone got new socks. It was great.

Melanie came with her pecan pie ready and Shelly made two pumpkin pies. Andrea and Gabers made their pies -- coconut cream, apple struesel & lemon meringue later for the big feast. Somewhere in all of this day, Gabers made her gooey pumpkin bars. Oh my gosh. They are wonderful.


Matt, Charlotte, Gabe, Drew, Jordan, Ken, Tricia, Doug, Jeremy, Andrea, Melanie, Andrew, Shelly & Tanner, Rich leaning in........missing Carsen, Emery and Audrey.

5. Thanksgiving Day - we headed for Uncle Ken's lakehouse. It's about 30 minutes from Culpeper. I took the stuffing and veggie platter. Gabers surprised us with raspberry jello with bananas and other stuff. Crowleys were in heaven. Annie Crowley used to make red jello with bananas for her family. Gabers took it one step further.

The Maryland Crowleys were all at the lake except Shannon, who was still in Italy. Ken, Tricia, Kara and new husband Drew, Jordan and Uncle Doug were all there. It was fantastic. Check out the cute centerpiece Tricia made - a pumpkin with pansies and the darling apple candles. She hollowed out the top of the apples, rimmed the opening with cloves and put a small votive candle in the apple. The tablescape was beautiful. It was very clever. The Crowley Men worked diligently on their afternoon activity after dinner to get an abandoned wasps nest out the the tall tree, but alas and alack were unable to get the darn thing down. They had fun trying.

How do you say full.............Thanksgiving. We were full of food and blessings. We loved being together and sharing all of that good food and enjoying each other's company. The only Crowley missing was our sweet little Lauren.

A Pie Feast!

6. On Friday when I awoke, Andrew and Audrey were standing by the bed asking when we were going to get up. That's payback for all those years of getting Andrew up for seminary. He said, "Melanie has been gone for two hours. She left at 6:00 to go to the made rush at Kohls." She did very well too. So, Shelly and I got in gear and were getting ready to leave when Mel came back and we all went to Pepperberries Boutique for our prizes. Funny thing is none of us have really liked Vera Bradley stuff before, but now she has some fun winter patterns and yes, we now all have darling bags.

Melanie's Bag

Okay we finished shopping in time to get Jeremy and Shelly back to the airport. They flew back to Fresno Friday night. Andrew, Mel and Audrey stayed for one more day and Matt, Gabe and Charlotte were also there to keep us from being too sad. Then, the next day, after breakfeast, my two amazing daughter's in-law went like buzz saws through the house stripping beds, cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming. Love those girls. I am so lucky. And those boys, Matt and Andrew put up my 12 foot tree in the family room complete with all lights working. That was a big job. Three strings were out when I took it down last year. They found the naughty little burned out bulbs and wow! The tree is beautiful. (My son's are the best.)

One more stolen picture from Shelly's Blog

Tanner and Grandpa in a tense game with Charlotte

So now it's December. This weekend I hope to get some decorations up and finish the tree.