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 Rochelle Staab to share the beauty of the season with us.
Favorite Holiday tradition?
Cookies, cocoa, and watching Holiday Inn or Christmas In Connecticut on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. If I’m back home with my family in Milwaukee, the annual family Christmas Eve party featuring way too much food, off-key caroling, heated debates, outrageous holiday clothing, and everyone I love.
Favorite childhood toy?
My teddy bear Brownie was always at my side when I played with my Easy Bake Oven (I was baking light bulb brownies at six) or my ballerina music box. Wow, I can still hum the tune she danced to.
Favorite childhood game?
Monopoly with my cousins on Saturday night while our parents played Sheepshead in the kitchen. We kids didn’t know what the heck we were doing, but we sure had fun playing real estate. Hotels on Park Place! Reading Railroad! Chance! Go to Jail!
Snow ball fight or making snow families?
Snow ball fights from behind snow forts. Duck, I have good aim.
Sleigh rides, sledding or skiing?
Sledding down the small hill in front of our old house on 39th Street. I quit the slopes after a skiing accident in Vermont, but I’m ready and willing for my first sleigh ride. Call me. I adore the snow.
Favorite holiday song?
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, the Judy Garland, Sinatra, or James Taylor versions. Guaranteed tears every single time I hear it.
Favorite holiday movie?
I can’t pick! Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Christmas In Connecticut, Miracle on 34th Street, The Man Who Came To Dinner. Even The Santa Clause. Or any schmaltzy Hallmark, Lifetime, or Disney Channel holiday movie marathon on television.
Favorite holiday story to read?
O. Henry’s short, “The Gift of the Magi.” A true love story.
Snow on holiday eve, day or just a chill in the air?
As a Wisconsinite transplanted to California, I yearn for snow on Christmas Eve. So much so that I’ve been known to put on a Snowfall DVD for atmosphere.
Most memorable holiday memory?
As a child, my favorite memory was the year Santa delivered my first two-wheel bike, blue, with a basket. I couldn’t contain myself, rode the bike in the attic until the weather got warm enough to ride outside. As an adult, the New Year’s Eve I celebrated in Times Square with thousands of people huddled in the cold to watch the ball drop. Thrilling!
Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?
I did, but every one I remember was stale. So no, thank you, I’ll pass.
Real tree or artificial? Green or white?
Real and green. And every year I cut off one branch to save. This year before I decorate my new tree, I’ll burn last year’s branch in the fireplace with gratitude, to symbolize continuity.
What do you do holiday eve?
Depends on what the evening has in store. If I’m going out, I spend the day cooking or baking, then I put on something red and sparkly as TV news anchors update Santa’s progress. (Hey, it could happen.) I always end my evening with cookies and an old movie.
What are your holiday plans this year?
Do you mean besides writing like crazy to catch up? This year should be a lot of fun. On the 24th, one of my friends is having a Hanukkah party (and I love homemade latke so I can’t miss that) and another couple is having their annual Christmas Eve party (and I love eggnog so I can’t miss that.) Christmas Day I’ll be on the phone all morning with family, and then to the movies and dinner with another group of friends—a yearly tradition.
What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?
The holiday dish that defines holiday memories for our family is my Mom’s red-white-green Jello mold. A layer of lime Jello on the bottom, a creamy white mixture in the middle, and cherry Jello on top. I get nostalgic just thinking about it.
Please share a Holiday recipe.
Mom’s Christmas Jell-O Mold:
1 package (3 ounces) lime green gelatin
2 cups boiling water, divided
2-1/2 cups cold water, divided
1 cup crushed, drained, canned pineapple (Do not use fresh!)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package (3 ounces) cherry gelatin
1 cup thawed, drained, frozen cherries
Whipped topping, optional
In a large bowl, dissolve lime green gelatin in 1 cup boiling water; stir in 1 cup cold water. Add pineapple. Pour into a 3-qt. serving bowl. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, sprinkle unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 1 minute. Add the cream and sugar; cook and stir over low heat until gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Spoon over the green layer. Refrigerate until firm.
In a large bowl, dissolve cherry gelatin in remaining hot water; stir in remaining cold water. Add cherries. Spoon over set cream layer. Chill until cherry layer is set. Garnish with whipped topping and serve.
Holiday party tip?
Potato chips and eggnog do not mix well. Neither do Green Bay Packer and Minnesota Vikings fans. Pace yourself, talk to everyone, circulate!
Favorite holiday decoration?
Poinsettias on every table, and at the front door. I love filling my house with RED!
Wrap, gift bag or bow & go?
I’m a wrapper — I enjoy the creativity. Clear off the table, bring out the scissors, tape, rolls of paper, ribbon, and gift tags. Gift wrapping night is as much of a tradition for me as decorating the tree. The only gifts I bow & go are freshly baked goods.
Gifts or gift cards?
I’ll answer for myself on this one: give me a Starbucks, Subway, Amazon, In-N-Out, B&N, or a DSW card and I’m thanking you through January. Gift cards are great if you know someone’s habits or favorite things. If I’m stumped on what present to give, I ask.
Cyber shop or head out into the trenches?
Both. Cyber shopping is fast and easy, but I enjoy the mall bustle during the holidays. Nothing beats watching little kids line up for their first visit to Santa. So cute. Can’t miss that. My secret tactic for quickie mall shopping is going when the store opens or an hour before closing.
Do you eat fruitcake?
There’s a joke in there somewhere, Diane. I don’t think anyone has ever offered me a real piece of fruitcake. I’d try it. I won’t criticize unless I’ve tried something.
Do you head to the movies on the 25th?
Absolutely. It’s a tradition! Our Christmas Movie Clique already made this year’s plan: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the afternoon, then dinner in Beverly Hills.
What’s in your stocking? *wink*
My pedicured toes painted in Holiday Glow, shimmery, sexy, ready to party.
What do you want in your stocking? *saucy wink aka swink*
Let me talk to the man: Dear St. Nick, I’ve been very, very good. Good enough for a pair of sunglasses, a red-hot bikini, and two tickets to Hawaii. And Nick? Ditch your red suit. The less clothing the better in the tropics, darling.
Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for anything?
Not this year. With any luck I’ll be on the beach with Nick. See above.
Thank you so much.
Thank YOU, Diane! Your questionnaires stir so many happy memories. And I’m prepared to welcome new ones this year. I hope your holidays are filled with laughter and joy. And good presents. Merry! Happy!
Wow, Rochelle, thank you so very much. Rochelle, be prepared for the New Year interview, darling! Coming soon. *chuckling*.
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!
Visit Rochelle’s website for the latest news.
Portrait photos of Rochelle by Jeffrey Bloom Photography