Inspired by Blogmas

A few blogs that I follow, started to talk about “Blogmas” a week or so ago. From what I can tell it is a list of 25-31 Blog post ideas. Sort of a daily writing prompt that are all Christmas related. I did a search for “Blogmas” and read through a few of them. The list seems to vary a bit, but mostly contains the same prompts. The idea is to blog about each of these prompts daily. Some of the lists stop at 25 (Christmas Day) and some end at day 31 (New Year’s Eve).

The ones I read yesterday were under the title “Christmas Tag.” In essence, you answer the 20 questions and then tag a blogger to answer the same. I won’t tag anyone at the end of this blog, since I am technically not officially committed to “Blogmas,” but I liked some of the questions on the list and thought they would make for good reading (even though I may have answered a question or two in more detail in past blogs). So here goes:

  1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas? I would say that I probably start getting in the Christmas mood right after Halloween. Many radio stations begin playing Christmas music then. I could listen to Christmas music any time of the year, but hearing it on the radio starts to get me excited for the season.
  2. Is Christmas your favorite holiday? I would say yes. I have so many wonderful memories of past Christmases. I love that people’s attitudes tend to be happier during the Christmas season. There just seems to be a lot more joy around Christmas.
  3. Do you prefer to stay at home or travel for the holidays? I guess I prefer to stay home – or close to home – for the holidays. When I read the question, travel seems to insinuate going out of state or a lengthy trip. Most of my family is within a 60-90 minute drive, so that really doesn’t seem like travel to me.
  4. Be honest: do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? Definitely giving. I love to see the look on a person’s face when they receive a gift from me. I wouldn’t consider myself the best gift giver (trying to buy anything for my wife is SO difficult). I like to have some sort of idea of what a person wants before I shop for them. As far as receiving gifts – I never really feel comfortable when someone buys me something.
  5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve? I have every year since I was a kid. We always went to my grandma’s house for Christmas Eve and opened all our gifts. During my first marriage, we always let my sons open one gift on Christmas Eve (usually Christmas pajamas). Today, my sons come over the day before Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve morning is our “Christmas.” They spend Christmas morning with their mom. My daughter and my son will have some gifts to open Christmas Eve morning with their brothers and then more for Christmas morning.
  6. Have you ever built a snowman? Yes. Quite a few actually. I remember loving when the snow was “good packing” and you could build snowmen and snow forts. Just recently, my daughter and I started a snowman, but she was so excited to play in the snow, he was never finished. Can’t wait for our next opportunity to build one.
  7. Do you decorate the outside of your home for Christmas? Yes. Usually the front and side porches. It is by no means the best on the block, but I’m happy with it. One day I hope to be courageous enough to climb up on the roof and do more. For now, I’m happy with it.
  8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake? Fake. In all my years, we’ve never had a real tree. I enjoy them when they are at someone else’s house, though. I enjoy the smell of the pine tree. I am not sure that if we ever got a real tree that I’d be comfortable with it. You know, fire hazzards, bugs or animals possibly still being in them, the fact that you have to water it each day, and stepping on pine needles for months after….
  9. Most memorable holiday moment? How does one even begin to answer this question?! I have so many from childhood, and now even more with each of my children. I just couldn’t narrow it down to one.
  10. What do you like to do over Christmas break? What break?! I have a couple days off and work the rest of the days in between. I wish that I could stockpile vacation time up so I could actually take more time off during the holidays so I could spend it with family.
  11. Which holiday traditions are you most looking forward to this year? One thing that I have come to really look forward to is driving through the Holiday lights display at Crossroads Village on Christmas Eve night. It doesn’t change too much every year, but I always love going through and seeing the lights.
  12. Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Urgh – again, very difficult to chose one. Maybe it was the Atari 2600. It also could be the cribbage board my grandpa gave me. Or it could be the gold trumpet charm from my mom. Stretch Armstrong? I just can’t narrow it down.
  13. What is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Toss up between Pignolata (loved when my grandma made this!) or cannoli. Both were staples at Christmas time (along with many many Christmas cookies).
  14. Your favorite Christmas movie? I would say A Christmas Story or any version of A Christmas Carol. (Christmas Vacation could easily be in there, too!)
  15. Your favorite Christmas song? Man, all of these “favorite” questions are just to difficult! Dean Martin’s Marshmallow World is a definite favorite! Santa Claus is Back in Town from Elvis, Mel Torme’ The Christmas Song, Doc Severinsen’s Jingle Bells, the list goes on and on!
  16. What makes the holidays special for you? Family! Spending time with my family is all that matters! Sharing those special moments with them is everything!
  17. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season? I’ve never really been away for the holidays, but I know some places go all out. Disney, Branson, and so many other places really have some amazing things going on. Maybe one day we’ll be able to check them out.
  18. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you stick to them? I used to. I don’t really any more. I shouldn’t need a new year to want to make changes in my life. For many years, I would make them and would fail miserably at them.
  19. You have been granted one Christmas wish, what will it be? I would wish to make a difference. Included in the wish, I would wish to be a role model for my children, a good friend, a good husband, and a man whose faith helped lead others to the Lord.
  20. Who’s “it?” At this point on the list you are supposed to pick someone to answer the same questions. If you are so inclined, you may do so. If not, I hope you enjoyed my answers.

Lost In Thought

I was sent home from work tonight because of low volume.

The night started off on a high note. One of my co-workers stopped at an Italian bakery and brought me some pignolata! It is a Sicilian dessert that I blogged about 5 days ago. I was excited to dive right in. Naturally, I had my reservations. My grandma never used sprinkles, and this batch has them on it.

I asked my co-worker if she wanted to try it. She stated she bought some for herself and a friend and had tried it. She was not impressed. My heart sank. Now, I had to try it. I was disappointed. It was similar, but no where close to grandma’s. There was not enough honey, not enough chocolate chips, and no powdered sugar. Sigh.

As I drove home, I passed the town Christmas tree. It was already lit. Stupid Covid. Every year, our little town does a tree lighting ceremony. Santa shows up, there is a parade where the high school band marches down main street, and the shops are open with baked goods and hot chocolate. Afterward, there are some games and other activities. Obviously, this didn’t happen this year. What a shame! I really enjoy doing that with the family.

I came home to to a quiet house, turned on the Christmas lights and thought about how different things are gonna be this year. It makes me sad. It makes me hope that there will be some sort of “normal” by next year! Kids shouldn’t have to talk with Santa through a bubble or behind glass…

It seems that every time I open my Facebook, a friend has lost someone dear to them. One friend has literally posted about one friend passing away and within an hour, she posted another friend had passed away, too. Too many friends have lost parents or children this year. Many of these aren’t even Covid related! There is so much sadness.

I feel like my prayer list grows bigger and bigger every night. I pray for those friends who have family members in the hospital. I pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. I pray for those who have struggle because of the loss of employment. The list goes on and on. I will keep praying …

My cousin summed things up recently when she posted this…

Before you start bragging that you’ve done your Christmas shopping and post a picture of 175 wrapped gifts under the tree, please remember :

Some parents have lost their jobs and don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, never mind buy presents for them.

Some families are on 80% pay and only just managing to pay bills. 😔 (Some are making less than that, or trying to make it off unemployment!)

Some people have lost family members and Christmas won’t be the same now or ever again. 💔

Some people don’t go online and now have no idea when or how they’ll be able to shop.

Some people are completely isolated and alone, and won’t be receiving any gifts from anyone at all.

Some people are fighting for their lives!!! Christmas shopping is the last thing on their minds. So remember, nobody likes a show off!!!

For me this year, more than ever before, it’s more important who is around your tree rather than what’s under it.

Be humble. Be thoughtful. Be kind. That’s what the holiday season is really about.

Here’s a Christmas Treat I Miss

As a child I always looked forward to my grandma making Christmas treats. She made hundreds of cookies every year! Another treat she made, which I was thinking about this afternoon was “pignolata.” Pignolata is one of the most popular southern Italian sweets made for Christmas. It used to be made in Sicily usually during Carnevale (similar to mardi gras), but is now also made during Christmas. You can find pignolata in different parts of Sicily with different names: pignocata, pagnuccata, pignolata, and in other places it was called struffoli.

So what exactly is pignolata? It is basically fried dough balls drizzled in honey. Every recipe I have found uses candy sprinkles on top. My grandma’s version always had chocolate chips in it, and never had sprinkles. She’d have powdered sugar on top and we could always find it in a pie tin, covered in plastic wrap. It was delicious! I remember one day, my dad brought a friend over and he ate an entire tin of the stuff!!

There is a little Italian bakery by my dad’s house that still makes it and sells it around the holidays. It costs a pretty penny (about $15 a tin), but worth every dime! It is also worth it because my grandma said it took a lot of time to make.

Pignolata

I found a few recipes online, but I am almost positive I have grandma’s recipe at home somewhere. If not, I know I have a few cousins who may have one. One day I would love to make this!!

If you are inclined to try, here is a recipe you can try. If I can find grandma’s – I’ll post it.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (extra may be needed)

Syrup

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • zest of one large orange
  • 1 cup orange blossom honey
  • Vegetable oil to fry
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

To make the dough

  • In the bowl of a large mixer, beat eggs sugar, salt and oil.
  • Sift the flour into the mix and beat on medium speed with a dough hook until you obtain a soft dough. Add more flour as needed a little at a time if the dough is too sticky.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until it is smooth.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll into ropes (about ½ inch thick). Cut each rope into ½ inch pieces and roll the pieces in your hands (like you’re making meatballs) into little balls.
  • Toss a little bit of flour on the dough balls so they don’t stick while you roll the other pieces.
  • Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan to 350 degrees F.
  • Carefully add about 6 pieces of dough at a time and fry until they are evenly browned (about 3 minutes).
  • Remove the dough pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat process until you fry all the pieces of dough.

To make the syrup

  • In a large skillet, bring the sugar, water and orange zest to a boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Whisk in the honey; reduce the heat to medium-high.
  • Add the balls and stir to coat them evenly with the honey syrup. Cook for about 5 minutes until they obtain a nice glaze.
  • Immediately place them on serving plate stacking them like a pinecone. Use caution as they are very hot.
  • Toss on the sprinkles.