Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas In Central Pennsylvania 2006

This was the scene outside the window during Christmas week - notice there was no snow. Usually, their bird feeder is full of birds and/or squirrels. That's probably because they feed them so well - with shelled sunflower seeds and peanuts!

Below you can see the results of my attempts to make Gam's Almond Cookies... Mind you, they are BAR cookies - but I pretty much had to spoon-drop them on the cookie sheet.

And, of course, they spread - unlike my grandmother's cookies, which stayed firm.

We've come to the conclusion that lard is an essential ingredient, having a different melting point than Crisco or butter. Adding more flour really makes the flavor fade into the blahs. While the cookies looked rather pathetic, my husband and I enjoyed them thoroughly - our daughter and her husband did not find them quite so delicious as we did. And the cookies that didn't really cook all the way through were put on the bird feeder - and totally ignored by squirrels and birds alike! O well, next time I'll get some lard from the Amish and try one more time to make Gam's Almond Cookies. Wish me luck!

Here is our daughter demonstrating how to use her fancy espresso machine... She had been to southern Italy for a chemistry meeting of some sort and was taught the true art of Italian espresso - or so she claims. Before she left, she didn't even drink regular coffee but now she has espresso nearly every day. Who ever would have guessed?!

Christmas morning - before opening anything.

Chris with Cookie Monster...

Followed by Chris with the Sesame Street story she's been alluding to for a few months: "The Monster at the End of This Book." For a university prof, the end of a semester often brings with it "the monster at the end of the semester." Or so we've been told. Chris loved this book when she was a child and she proceeded to read the entire book to us with all the inflections of a good story-teller.

Here is Frank with one of his Chicago Bears shirts.

Below: Frank and Chris at her computer with the planning map of Ireland on the wall behind them. Can you envision three smart, highly educated adults attempting to plan a joint vacation together in Ireland - especially when each of the three has a totally unique and independent way of researching, planning, and navigating???

While we three were planning our Ireland trip, Steve set to work putting together the Christmas rocker. Isn't it wonderful to have a handyman as part of the team? He's also smart and highly educated, teaching at Penn State along with Chris. He's smart enough to stay out of the way of the other three during their attempts to concretize plans!

We had a great time with Chris and Steve, despite our nasty head/chest colds. We're hoping that they don't catch what we had!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Gam's Slivered Almond Cookies

Above: Gam's Recipe for Slivered Almond Cookies.

My meanderings down memory lane have inspired me to find my grandmother's recipe for Slivered Almond Cookies... which I had photographed from her hand-written mini-cookbook sometime last spring or summer. Then I put the cookbook away with other memorabilia - which meant it would be easier to find as a jpeg in my files!

Here is her recipe - mind you, neither of my two sisters nor I have managed to make them taste the way they used to when Gam and Pop made them. So there are no promises, should you decide to try the recipe. Besides, Gam neglected to mention the time and temperature for baking them!

The following photos show my progress in making the dough tonight...

We three gals all decided that it must be the lard that makes the difference - so I used Crisco (solid) for that part of the recipe. I was feeling super-confident that these cookies are going to turn out wonderfully well so I made a double batch! I also decided that hand-mixing was required since Gam and Pop would not have used an electric mixer. They did have one, but it was never used on cookies, or any other dessert items that I can recall. And, as it turned out, the hand-mixing was quite easy. After all, there's all that butter & Crisco with the sugar, and then there are 6 eggs so the doubled flour was relatively easy to mix in. As bar cookies, they were a bit mushy, as the photos show - hence the importance of refrigerating overnight!

As to the success of the cookies, that remains to be seen since they just went into the fridge. I'll be bringing them to Pennsylvania tomorrow to bake them there at our daughter & son-in-laws home. But I'll tell you this much, the cookie dough was marvelous! I licked every utensil clean...

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas to Your House

From Everyone Here
in My House
and Yard
and Woods!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Last Minute To-Do-ing...

My morning visitors...

This is a view of the kitchen windows by our table - in daylight, we look out on the woods - see below. At night, we see glistening, twinkling lights...

Well, today was much less about memory lane and more about doing the last minute chores prior to leaving to celebrate the holidays in Pennsylvania. The typical things - drop off a click-n-ship package at the post office, return a sweater to Sears, pick up some stocking stuffers (our family goes nutty over Christmas stockings - they're the size Santa might wear in triple X plus!) which required going to several stores (Staples, Michael's, CVS, Barnes + Noble). I also wanted a couple of silly/fun/gag gifts and I found them in the same 4 stores above, thank goodness! Then I needed to get some milk to last us two more mornings...

Tomorrow is laundry & packing day - and wrapping up all those little stocking stuffers. Yes, we do wrap even the stocking stuff! And tomorrow night we'll be celebrating the Winter Solstice at a friends home - with harp and song, prayer and thanksgiving - and snacks!

This is the little window by the kitchen sink...

This year, as in the recent past (since we have no room for a tree in our townhouse), I've decorated our windows with lights on the inside and hung clear glass ornaments from the curtains. It's a trick my mom taught us when Dad was sick with ALS and she couldn't put a tree up all by herself. She dragged the ornaments down from the 3rd floor attic and hung them in every conceivable place - but mostly in the living and dining room windows where Dad could see them from his hospital bed in the dining room.

And this is one that shows the glass ornaments more clearly.

Mom hung all our ornaments around the house that last year - every kind and color of the rainbow since she was a holiday decorating fanatic. She left them up until February or March that year. They were quite a couple - for much of their lives Dad had taken care of Mom and pampered her but in the last three years of their lives, he was too ill and Mom took care of Dad and pampered him with wit, love, humor and playfulness. They died 8 days apart from totally different illnesses - they stayed together after teaching us how to live...and how to die gracefully.

I guess I'm still walking down memory lane...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Continuing Down Memory Lane...

Skipping ahead some 18 or so years, to the next generation of Dolan's celebrating the holidays...
Our first grandchild, Michelle Dolan - 1988
Above: Mike, Peggy and Michelle - Athens, PA - 1988
Below: Michelle, Cousin Kathy, and Santa - Philadelphia - 1988

The Family at Christmas - Athens, PA - 1988
And in 1989 on December 29, our grandson was born!
Marlboro, VT - 1989
Here is Michelle holding J.D. - 1988/1989
And Alyssa arrived in time for our 1991 Christmas - Freehold, NJ
Michelle & J.D. - 1991

Michelle on one of Granny's quilts - 1991
The Family at Christmas in Freehold, NJ - 1991
(I'm behind the camera...)
Below: Chris & Steve - 1991
And yes, he really IS that tall (6'4") and she really IS that short) 5'2"...

As a three-generation household, we always had two separate trees - one was Granny & GramPa's and the other was the younger generation. Here is their tree BEFORE the kids woke up in 1992.
After they woke up, we took this memorable picture of Alyssa having her own little tea party.
Christmas morning for the younger generations in Freehold, NJ - 1993
As is often the case, Daddy brings the kids while Mommy waits with the camera...
Here is the tree prior to the kids arrival!
And here we are on December 29, 1993 celebrating our 28th anniversary at home in Freehold, NJ.
And yes, our grandson was indeed born on our anniversary - our 24th anniversary.
Newfane, VT - 1994 - Mike and his family
The three adorable grandkids - Christmas 1994 - VT
And in 1995, our daughter was married on December 16th in State College, PA. Another December wedding - what could we say since we did it, too?!
This was taken before the wedding.
And after the wedding.
These are all the people on the bride's side of the family that were able to make it through the snow storm to the wedding.
Actually, I think there were many more children present - belonging to the girls on the left!
We had a quiet Christmas and anniversary that year - here we are on December 29, 1995.
Did any of you seamstresses out there notice my jumper matching the granddaughter's outfits in the 1994 picture of the three kidlets?

And so that takes us to 11 years ago... how time flies!
Here are the adults at Christmas in Vermont - 2005

Last year at Christmas, we couldn't capture all three high school kids at the same time... so this was taken at Michelle's HS graduation last spring!
And this year, we'll be with our daughter and her husband in State College, PA. But we were in Vermont for Thanksgiving, butI accidentally "lost" all my digital images of the family - boo hoo! Some of those photos would have been terrific! Even after all these year, I still have to bribe the kids by allowing three or even 4 very silly pictures before I get one or maybe 2 "decent" ones.

We've been very blessed by our wonderful family - yes, there have been tough years of illness, lack of funds, difficult situations, etc. but over-all, we've enjoyed a wonderful life. Life is good - very, very good.