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Winter Holiday Fireside Moments: Interview with Livia J. Washburn

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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 Livia J. Washburn to share the beauty of the season with us.

Favorite holiday tradition?

Getting together with family, lots of family.  Growing up we’d open our presents early Christmas morning, then load up in the car to visit with family. Luckily both sets of grandparents lived fairly close. We’d have lunch with my father’s parents and his six brothers and sisters and all of my cousins, then a few hours later we’d head to my mother’s parents and visit with her six brothers and sisters and all of my other cousins. Both had big farms that we kids would explore endlessly. Big families are the best.

Favorite childhood toy?

My dad made us a seesaw out of some big metal wagon wheels. You could seesaw and roll at the same time.

Favorite childhood game?

My father invented several games when we were young. Later Connect 4 was the same as one he invented. We loved playing all kinds of games. Canasta was my favorite card game.

Snowball fight or making snow families?

Snowball fight, definitely. I had two brothers and it rarely snowed enough to make snow families..

Sleigh rides, sledding or skiing?

I’ve never done any of these. We don’t get a lot of snow here in this part of Texas.

Favorite holiday song?

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”.

Favorite holiday movie?

Miracle on 34th Street.

Favorite holiday story to read?

O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. This story distills all the love, warmth and sharing that make Christmas the special holiday it is.

Snow on holiday eve or just a chill in the air?

Chill in the air. As a kid I would have said snow. As an adult, I can see the beauty of snow, but then I have to deal with the problems snow causes.

Most memorable holiday memory?

The year my brother told us that our father was pretending to be Santa. He even pulled the suit out of the top of the closet and showed us where the presents were hidden. Boy, my parents were mad.

Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?

I don’t think I’ve ever had popcorn balls.

Real tree or artificial? Green or white?

I love a real tree. We would buy live ones and then plant them after Christmas. Nothing like having a 30 foot tree that started out a 4 foot Christmas tree. Live trees have the wonderful smell without losing the needles. Now, we mostly use a green artificial tree. It’s getting harder to find a nice live tree.

What do you holiday eve?

 When our kids were small, that would be when we’d drive around looking at Christmas lights and we’d come home and watch a Christmas movie.

What are your holiday plans this year?

My niece’s husband lost his job recently and I’d like to see that she and her four little children have a wonderful holiday.

What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?

Homemade bread

Please share a holiday recipe.

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas cookies and is in my latest book, The Gingerbread Bump-off. I’m slightly allergic to peanuts, so this is my peanut cookie fix.

DARK DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE CASHEW COOKIES

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/2 cup cashew butter
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 cup of salted cashews chopped leaving large pieces
• 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
• 1 teaspoons vegetable shortening

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl beat the butter and
cashew butter until creamy, add sugar gradually, beating well. Beat in egg
and vanilla. Add the flour and mix by hand until well blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls about two inches apart on an ungreased cookie
sheet. I prefer to use parchment paper on the pans. Flatten each ball of
dough lightly with fingers or a floured glass. Press chopped nuts
generously onto the top of the cookies.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

Let cool about 1 minute and then remove from cookie sheet to a cooling rack.
Let cool completely.

If you used parchment paper, you can now use that to place the cookie to top
with chocolate. Wax paper works great for this, too. Place chocolate
morsels and vegetable shortening in the top half of a double boiler. Over
simmering water, melt chocolate and vegetable shortening. Stir gently until
combined. Spoon chocolate over cookies. Let set.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

***

Holiday party tip? Don’t make it difficult and stress over everything. Fix
simple foods so you can spend your time enjoying family and friends. Now
let’s see if I can follow my own advice.

Favorite holiday decoration?

Stockings. My husband’s mother made our daughters special stockings that were beautiful. We lost those in ’08 when our house was destroyed in a wildfire. The ones we have now are a little plain, but I’m working on some personalized ones.

Please share some magical holiday memories?

 I was staying at my father’s parents’ farm for a few days before Christmas with a couple of my cousins. My grandparents didn’t put up Christmas trees, so we went on a Christmas tree hunt on their farm. The best we could come up with was a tumbleweed. We decorated that tumbleweed to look like Christmas.

Wrap, gift bag or bow & go?

I start out wrapping, then end up bagging in the end. Hardly ever do I bow and go, but since I bought hula hoops for my grand-nieces, I may have to do that this year.

Gifts or gift cards?

Gifts for almost all, but gift cards for bookstores sneak in.

Do you eat fruitcake?

No.

Do you head to the movies on the 25th?

No. Both of my daughters worked at the movie theater on Christmas in their teens. A lot of people do.

What’s in your stocking? *wink*

Stocking is looking a little flat. I don’t think there’s anything in it, yet.

What do you want in your stocking? *saucy wink aka swink*

I did see a 40 volt lithium battery chainsaw last week that I wouldn’t mind having. (James, do not buy this, the one you got me for our anniversary was plenty for now. If the price has gone down next year . . . we’ll see.)

Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for
anything?

No, never. Shudder. I will be spending the 26th with my laptop working extra hard to pay for all I spent on Christmas this year.

Thank you so much. Thank you for inviting me to do the interview.

Thank you, Livia. My warmest wishes to you and your loved ones. May your niece and her family have a magical one.

Happy Holidays from my house to yours!

Visit Livia’s website for the latest news.

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About Diane Morasco