It’s that time of year when the chill in the frosty air brings us indoors to hunker down with thick comforters and mugs of steaming hot chocolate overflowing with fluffy marshmallows. When holiday music and movies become the soundtrack to our everyday home lives. When we gather ‘round the fire for company, drink, food and love. When we are celebrating and remembering those we treasure and hold near and dear. When the real meaning of the season is family – by our DNA or by our heart. When we reflect and give thanks for all we have. In a nutshell, unconditional love.
I’d like to welcome Laura Alden to share the beauty of the season with us.
Favorite Holiday tradition?
Going to see the Nutcracker ballet! As a kid I saw it almost every year (thanks to my harp-playing mother) and now I’ve convinced my husband that Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Nutcracker. Last weekend we attended a production at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Wonderful!
Favorite childhood toy?
Ooo, good question. I’d say it’s a tie between the Barbie camper I got when I was eight and the chemistry set I got when I was eleven.
Favorite childhood game?
The year my brothers and I got a ping-pong table was one of the best Christmases ever. I don’t think we had many other presents, but we didn’t care!
Snow ball fight or making snow families?
I’ve shied away from snowball fights after the time I got splatted in the face by a snowball and spent the next half hour on my hands and knees in the snow looking for my glasses.
Sleigh rides, sledding or skiing?
All of the above! But if I had to choose, I’d take skiing. Cross country, downhill, whatever. Any type of skiing makes me happy.
Favorite Holiday song?
Tie between “In the Bleak Midwinter” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Favorite holiday movie?
Tie between Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version) and Babette’s Feast.
Favorite holiday story to read?
Another tie, this time between Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes and A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.
Snow on holiday eve or just a chill in the air?
Most memorable holiday memory?
The 11 pm Christmas Eve church service of my childhood church. As a kid, it was very special to have permission to stay up so late. Then getting home at midnight, falling into bed, and waking up to Christmas – magical.
Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?
We made popcorn balls once or twice when I was young, but I found them hard to eat and haven’t made them since.
Real tree or artificial? Green or white?
When real trees hit the $50 price point, my husband and I decided to get a green artificial tree. The cats enjoy it very much.
What are your holiday plans this year?
We’re driving downstate to spend Christmas Eve with my mom, then over to my in-laws on Christmas Day.
What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?
Oyster dressing. Yum!
Please share a Holiday recipe.
1 pint shucked oysters (or more, if you really like oysters)
4-8 TB butter or margarine
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 sleeves of soda crackers
1 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Get out your favorite casserole dish and butter it generously. Cover the bottom with crumbled crackers and place one layer of oysters on top. Add some salt and pepper. Cut off bits of butter and spread over the oysters.
Add another layer of crumbled crackers, then another layer of oysters. Add more of the salt, pepper and butter.
Repeat until you run out of room (or oysters, whichever comes first). Top with more crumbled crackers, salt, pepper and butter. Evenly pour the milk over the casserole to make moist. Bake uncovered 35-40 minutes.
Holiday party tip?
Don’t worry about having enough food. There will be plenty.
Favorite holiday decoration?
My grandmother’s angel choir of 1” to 2” tall wooden choristers. When my dad died and my mom moved to an apartment, I inherited the 30-member choir, complete with two shepherds and four lambs. They’re on the piano and, to date, the cats have not touched them, a minor miracle in itself.
Please share some magical holiday memories?
As a kid, the arrival of my grandparents with hugs and kisses and a carload of presents. As a kid, the year I realized that Christmas was more than just presents. All through my years in church choir, singing the line “Born this happy morning,” from O Come, All Ye Faithful at the late night Christmas Eve service. As a new wife, waking up with my husband on Christmas morning. And now I find magic in every holiday card we receive and in every spoken wish for a “Merry Christmas!”
Wrap, gift bag or bow & go?
I love to wrap! I often want to start wrapping in October so I’ll have time to make every present beautiful. I don’t, of course, but one of these days….
Gifts or gift cards?
Gifts, 99% of the time.
Do you eat fruitcake?
Very small pieces only.
Do you head to the movies on the 25th?
No, I haven’t ever done that. I know people who do, though, if that counts for anything.
What’s in your stocking? *wink*
Right now there’s nothing except air. I sure hope it gets lumpy on Christmas morning!
What do you want in your stocking? *saucy wink aka swink*
I’m really hoping for an elf who would love to do all the housecleaning.
Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for anything?
We go out for wrapping paper and Christmas cards. Which is why we hope our friends never discuss the Christmas cards we send – we usually end up with three or four different kinds.
Thank you so much.
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!
You’re very welcome – and may 2012 be your happiest year ever.
Thank you, Laura. May 2012 be healthy and prosperous for you and yours!