Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkeyless Turkey Day ???

Several have asked, "just what DO you eat on Thanksgiving if you don't eat turkey?"

Well, I DO eat turkey (most years) because my mom usually makes a little one and I have some bites over there or she brings some bites here. But this year we won't be eating together since I'm hosting the Thanksgiving dinner at my church and mom isn't' up for that this year.

So this year we'll be having our vegetarian turkey loaf. I know your mouth is watering... much as it might just before you upchuck... But actually, it's pretty good. As my dear friend Linda says, "I don't make bad stuff".

Now, unfortunately, if you don't already have the ingredients for this on hand, you're probably out of luck this year. But you could get your pantry stocked before Christmas dinner rolls around.

The base product here is a vegetarian soy protein product that is produced by the Kellogg company and distributed through Morning Star Farms and Worthington. You've probably seen Morning Star Farms products in your local market's frozen foods section - vegetarian burgers (Grillers) and other sandwich patties are quite popular, also the "Meal Starters" soy protein meat substitutes.

The "Meatless Smoked Turkey" comes in a 4 lb. log about the size of one of those fire starter things, but it's a lot tastier. I'll share the recipe just in case you're wondering (or, perhaps you have your own frozen log of "Meatless Smoked Turkey" right now...)

Meatless Turkey Loaf

4 Cups Ground Soy Meat – Turkey or Chicken
1 Cup Light Cream
1 Cup Hot Water
1 teaspoon McKay’s Chicken Style Seasoning
1 teaspoon margarine
1 Cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs (Pepperidge Farms Stuffing)
½ Cup Chopped Onion
1 Cup Chopped Celery
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Accent
Salt to taste
Thyme to taste

Sauté onion and celery in 2 Tablespoons margarine.

Make broth of McKay’s, water and 1 teaspoon margarine. Combine all ingredients and pour into GREASED loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Let stand 15 minutes before inverting.

Hints: After greasing loaf pan, lay wax paper cut to fit bottom without overlapping sides.
After loaf stands 15 minutes, invert and immediately peel wax paper from “top” of loaf.
Garnish with tops of celery stalk, radish flowers, pepper rings etc. Great for holiday dinners.

This is another family favorite that is SO yummy. Raw Cranberry Salad. The mere name just starts my juices flowing! I look forward to it every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas (the ONLY time we ever eat it...and a little tiny bit the day before and a couple of days after, if we're lucky.) This is a family recipe that was passed down from my great-grandmother, Bess. She made it up in the 1930's.

Now, if you're accustomed to eating that red jellied stuff with the can ridges still on it - you might just want to leave now. Close the browser and you may not want to ever come back. We just don't do things like that around here.

If you know me in real life, you know I'm all about EASY. This is NOT a difficult recipe - especially if you have a food processor.

Raw Cranberry Salad
Great Grandma Bess White, circa 1930

1-2 Cans Crushed Pineapple – drain and save juice
1 Pkg. Raspberry Jell-O (6 oz)
1 Pkg. Cherry Jell-O (6 oz)
1 Envelope Unflavored gelatin
2/3 Cup Sugar
2 Cup Boiling Water
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 ½ Cup Fresh Cranberries – ground (consistency of pickle relish)
1 Small Orange, wash, and grind in food processor
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup English Walnuts – chopped.

Add water to pineapple juice to make 1 cup of liquid. Dissolve Jell-O in 2 cups boiling water. Add lemon juice and pineapple liquid. Chill until partially set.

Add crushed pineapple and remaining ingredients.

Pour into 2 qt. mold or bowl and chill overnight.

This is best the second or third day.

It's probably too late for you to run out and get the ingredients and if the store is open - they're probably out of what you'd need. I know there's been no celery here for a couple of days now.

But THIS is a yummy twist you might have all the stuff for right in your pantry...

Sara's Mashed Potatoes

For 5 lbs. potatoes yellow golds - scrub half and peel the rest, cube and boil.

When the taters are fork tender, drain and either pour them back into your cooking pot or into a big ol' Kitchenaid mixing bowl.

Immediately throw in an 8 oz bar of cream cheese, 1 stick of salted butter and about 8 oz of sour cream. Throw in some Kosher salt and grind in some black pepper to taste.

Whip them up - but leave some lumps! (Yummmmm)

These taters don't need gravy to be good. It's totally OK, and still incredibly yummy to go low fat on the cream cheese and sour cream.

If you want garlic mashed potatoes, use red skinned potatoes and crush 6 or 7 cloves of garlic and throw them in the pot to boil with the potatoes.

An hour before you boil the potatoes, cut the top off a large head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and grind some pepper on the top. Roast it in a 350 degree oven in a clay garlic roaster or heavy tin foil twisted at the top for about an hour.

After you drain the potatoes, throw in all that other stuff, and a few of those soft, roasted garlic cloves. You can throw in a half cup of Parmesan cheese too if you want - the fresh shredded stuff - not out of the green can... Oh man, baby! These are yummy and require NO gravy whatsoever!

Life is short - and good food makes it all that much better. Of all the things to be thankful for - FOOD has got to be right near the top of the list!

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Today my friend Revis sent me this - and I think it's the perfect sign off...

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey be plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have never a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off of your thighs!

(Just forget that "no lumpy potatoes" part...)

My Frieda

Remember the Peanuts character, Frieda - known best for her "naturally curly hair"?

Well I have my own here... All it takes it sleeping in a few rags.

The beauty of it is, these curls will last all day - and some into the next day. Whereas a curling iron job is gone in 10 minutes.
Those hair-do pioneers were onto something!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Christmas Tradition First

Sunday afternoon, we, (my Mom-in-law, me and my darling daughter) had the ultimate "girls day out" and went to see the Nutcracker. This is the first time that I have ever seen it "live". Same for my darling daughter, although she has about worn out our Nutcracker "Little Golden Book". (Remember those?)

Michaela has been counting down on her calendar to this very special memory. Nana has talked about taking her for years now - and I think this was the perfect year to do it. It was made even more special because my mom and sister were also able to go (as a slightly early birthday gift for my sis.) and they were able to get tickets right in front of us. Also - we happen to know one of the little Sugarbabe dancers from our homeschool association. I really had a great seat - three rows back in the "balcony" which is basically about three steps up from the orchestra level, and on the right side. I had a clear shot from my knees, which served as my tripod, to the stage. I don't have three knees - but I'm unwilling to figure out a better word. I don't want to get into it too much anyway, since they announced that photos were a 'no-no'. So I was a good girl and only took 156. And I have no idea what happened to all my photos of the first act. Somehow in the dark hall with a little black bolero jacket covering the back of my camera I managed to deleted them all.

I just love this dress on her. It's a favorite of Daddy too - since it was only $18 at Costco. Can't beat that - I'm even willing to do the hand washing at that price. Every place she stepped in the hall people were stopping to compliment her on her dress and behavior. She sorta walked like a little ballerina in it and kept calling me "mother". Someday I'll tell you about her nearly perfect British accent... Too many prissy movies for this kid, for sure.

It really was a wonderful afternoon - topped off with a post-show visit to Culver's for a fancy kid's meal complete with chocolate milk shake, and frozen custard. I also experienced a "first" ever in my life at Culver's. Betcha can't guess what it was.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Blog-iversary to Me - The Terrible Two's?

Wow - two years of bloggin'. Who'da thunk it?

Please to forgive... I've been a little lax lately (especially with my "Thankful" posts), but it's STAYED busy here with party planning etc. going on. I'll have some more celebration decor ideas for you, dear, faithful readers, in that area real soon. Plus lots more recipes. I'm all for the EASY and impressive stuff - but they have to be both easy and impressive at holiday time - there's just too much else to do!

I'm doing some changing in here in honor of my blog-iversary. First some cosmetic stuff. Don't get all excited right now - my sweet friend is helping me by designing some digi stuff for me. I can't wait - as she is such an awesome artist! But the new colors here will give you a hint for the direction I'm going with it :0)

I've updated my music player too - right now all you get is some of my favorite Christmas music that I found. I have more Christmas CD's than anything else. I LOVE Christmas music!

To celebrate my anniversary (and make a shameless attempt at getting my hits over 5,000 this week), I'm offering a surprise to one of my commenting readers. Up for grabs is a Fiskar's Threading Water Border Punch. I LOVE mine and got a good deal on this one - so had to grab it. They're kind of hard to come by right now.

If you're not a scrapbooker - not to worry - this is a great tool for paper crafting in general. You can see where I used it to make a card here. And if you're not a card maker - you can use it to spice up the appearance of your grocery list - or just give it to another paper crafter for Christmas!

Just leave me a comment on THIS post before Friday, November 27 at 5:00 p.m. Central time (this is important...I'm watching the time stamps on this one!) If you want to share this little contest with other crafters I don't mind - just don't share my blog address with any stalkers - I've got enough to worry about party planning right now.


12/9/2008 - It's about time! But I've finally remembered to employ the Random Number Generator and comment number 6 was my winner - So, dear friend, Beach, is the lucky recipient of the Fiskars punch. Yay! I can hand deliver rather than mail! What a treat for me :0)

Enter a lower limit: 1
Enter an upper limit: 12

Random Number: 6

Monday, November 17, 2008


Ten more days and Turkey Day will descend upon us. For a vegetarian household "Turkey day" means so much more... not to imply that we don't eat like Romans, cuz we do, but we're trying to put more focus on being truly thankful this time around.

And so I will now begin ten days of thankfulness. I'll try not to be too long winded about this - just give you a little something to think about, and I promise to try to not have every post be about food... starting tomorrow... Maybe.

Today, however, the word is Chocolate. All things Chocolate. No, I didn't accidentally capitalize that either... I think every proper name should begin with a capital letter.

This is my son's mug of homemade hot cocoa from this morning. You can tell I was feeling particularly benevolent today since I topped it with whipped cream and a sprinkle cocoa. What's better than liquid chocolate? Solid chocolate maybe. Truffles are right up there... just bring it any way you can and you're my new best friend. But don't bring me the cheap stuff... I can be a bit of a chocolate snob. But hey - this is about thankfulness, right? So I'll even accept your Whitman's and your Palmer right now. Just as long as it's smooth and brown (or white...that'll do too.)

Coffee? We don't need no stinking coffee... We prefer to start our day with chocolate.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bountiful Centerpiece

I truly love a good table centerpiece. Something beyond the standard vase of flowers and candles and really piques my interest. It gives me something pleasant to look at rather than lips smacking briefly to obstruct see-food... (I digress in the name of humor - I won't allow such things at my table - "potchen", as my Grampa Pop would have said, ain't allowed here. It's in the top three on my leg-long list of pet peeves...)

Back to table pretties... Each month I put a dinner together at church called "Women In Touch". It's meant to be an outreach as well as just a time for Christian women to have a night out to be waited on and fed spiritually as well as physically. It's probably my favorite job as Women's Ministry director for our church as it really feeds off the spiritual gift of hospitality. Every month requires an idea for a dinner and decor theme, plus the topic of discussion or the presentation. It's sometimes very challenging but in an enjoyable way. I've found that one of the best resources is the Better Homes and Garden's website - there are a TON of table decorating ideas there - complete with photographs and sometimes detailed instructions. Both the rectangular plate centerpiece and candle idea came from BHG this month. Both were super easy as well.

The pumpkins and gourds were purchased in a box at Costco for $4.99. There were enough in the box to make arrangements for three tables plus some little clusters on the serving tables. I just keep them in the fridge to make them last. I've had the rectangular serving dishes for about a year now - I got them at Wal-Mart for about $8 each. They have been VERY versatile I use them to serve vegetables for dipping, or cooked string beans or asparagus, or various candle centerpieces. At the left you can see how I used them last Christmas - just three different height pillar candles with some gold ribbon adhered around and various Christmas balls scattered around the candles. The glass candle cups with the Thanksgiving arrangement are also from Wal-Mart and less than $2 each, with a 4 inch pillar candle and some deer corn poured around the base of the candle.

There are also some "silk" fall leaves I found one year and I can't for the life of me remember where - but I'm so glad I bought two packs at the time - I use them a lot and they look so real. And if you look close you can see some bush clippings too - just some berries and fall-ish looking leaves from my yard.

Just work in odd numbers (meaning only one pumpkin - two if they're different colors and shapes and probably a total of three gourds or pumpkins. Keep the texture interesting - there's some little bitty Indian corn in there too. Right above, there's another idea for a quick easy fall centerpiece. The little Indian figures I picked up at Hobby Lobby in the before Thanksgiving sale last year. I think they were around $4 each on sale. I just scattered some mini pumpkins and those silk leaved around them. I love to hollow out the mini pumpkins and put a candle down inside. All you do is slice the top off your pumpkin - careful that you go far enough to clear the bottom of the stem, but leave a nice little "lid". Then just scoop out the inside with a spoon until it's all smooth. You can keep these fresh too, just put some plastic wrap over the cut edges and refrigerate them. They'll keep for a couple of weeks if you take care of them and watch for mildew.

I don't have a photo of the ones I made, but another quick favorite is to hollow out a pie pumpkin and stuff it with oasis foam - the kind of florist foam that holds water and has a flower preservative in it. Just pick up a bunch of fall flowers at the grocery store and build a mini arrangement in it. Start with the center flower being a little taller and cut the stems shorter to keep it round-ish. Use a lot of different colors and don't let it get too tall or top heavy. If you get a kabob skewer you can hang the "lid" from the side too - cut it shorter and just poke it down in your foam and hang the top edge of your pumpkin lid from it.

About those candle cups in the first photo... You can buy big bags of deer corn here in Texas and probably all over the Midwest too - it's just $7.50 for 50 pounds at WM - but I didn't want 50 pounds of deer corn - I seriously don't want them dropping their black jelly beans in my yard... So I bought a much smaller bag of squirrel feed instead. Most people don't want them in their yard either - but I don't have to feed them - and I've got a lot less to throw out. What I think I'll probably do it let the kids take some to the park now and then and drop it there :0)

Anywho... if you decided to get the squirrel feed - someone will need to sift through and pick out just the corn and leave the sunflower seeds and peanuts behind. It's a dirty job - but in the name of pretty centerpieces it must be done. Corn is the perfect centerpiece accent for Thanksgiving - you never hear about the Indians (Native Americans for the PC folks...) sharing their peanuts and sunflower seeds with the Pilgrims, now do you? Hire a kid - it's good practice for some day when they need to sort out all your pills for your pill box when you're old and blind...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Down The Slippery Holiday Dessert Slope

This has gotten rave reviews for years now... I love to take it to potluck suppers. It's a wonderful dessert for three basic reasons:
1) - it's delicious, B) it's EASY to make, and 3) - it saves you time when eating - cuz it's like eating a piece of pumpkin pie, a piece of pecan pie, a whole piece of cake and about a quarter stick of butter all at the same time! Oh - and a little whipped cream too ;0)

Just don't eat it all the time and you'll be fine. Although - I still contend that pumpkin is a kind of vegetable and so this shouldn't count against you in the battle of the bulge.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

9x13 pan 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour

4 Eggs beaten
1 ½ C. sugar
1 Can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 Can Carnation or Pet EVAPORATED milk (not Eagle Brand sweetened condensed)
2 t Pumpkin pie spice
½ t salt
1 Box Yellow Cake mix (Duncan Hines)
2 Sticks Butter melted (you could reduce to 1 1/2 sticks... but why??)
¾ C Pecans

Mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin, evap. Milk, spices and salt.
Pour batter into ungreased 9x13 pan
Sprinkle cake mix on top of batter
Sprinkle nuts on top of cake mix
Drizzle butter evenly over cake mix and nuts

Bake (one cake at a time) in center of oven. In a glass pan leave at 350 for 1 hour. You may need to bake a little longer – don’t let pecans burn – lay a sheet of foil over the top if necessary after the top reaches a pretty brown shade.

Serve with freshly whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers if there are any. It's good for breakfast too - just don't tell my kids...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death By TALL Cake

I've had a few requests for the recipe(s) I used for the chocolate tall cake I made for my 40th birthday party. Don't 'comment' me on how counter productive this is to weight loss. If you only eat it on your 40th birthday it's not an issue.

For a 4-layer (and I don’t mean two layers sliced in half…) TALL cake and 24 cupcakes:

Use 2 Duncan Hines (the best in my opinion…) Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mixes.

Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to each mix, prepare just like the box says and bake in prepared* 8-inch cake pans. I only have 3 8-inch cake pans, so I had to mix and bake these two mixes one at a time – getting the cupcakes from the second batch (just in case something happens to one of the first cakes - like being overcome by a chocolate attack.)

*Grease pans, cut a parchment paper circle to fit the bottom of each pan, grease the paper circle and then lightly flour each pan. Avoid using dark cake pans or lightweight aluminum pans. Choose instead the heavy aluminum pans with the rolled edge. You can get these in the cake decorating section of a department store – Wilton brand is trustworthy.

After the cakes have baked, you’ll want to remove them from the baking pans fairly quickly – you don’t want the moisture to condensate and collect in the bottom of the pan creating a soggy bottom. Nobody likes a soggy bottom…

Once the cakes have all cooled and you’ve carefully peeled off the parchment paper, you’ll need to trim the rounded top of the cakes to be fairly level. There’s a special tool you can get for this, but I just use a long serrated bread knife. Have a glass of cold milk standing by…cuz you’ll be rewarded for your patience in not eating one of the layers from the first batch.) DON’T over trim… This is a tall cake – if it looks fairly flat that’s good – quit trimming and nibbling, trimming and nibbling, trimming and nibbling…

At this point I like to freeze the cake overnight. This makes it much easier to ice and my mom says it deepens the flavor a little. Just lightly wrap each layer in parchment paper or waxed paper, put them in gallon size zip top bags, release the extra air and put them flat in a freezer. When you take them out, gently brush the crumbs off.

Now you’re ready to ice or frost it. I’m not really sure of the difference between icing and frosting… maybe frosting isn’t as “neat and tidy” looking. I have a suspicion it’s just one of those “language” things.

I used two different frostings/icings. (Recipes at the end) Between the layers and on the top is a chocolate whipped cream and the side is frosted with a chocolate buttercream. Also – get some Heath candy bars and pound them into small chunks and sprinkle the crushed bits between the layers on top of the chocolate whipped cream. You could buy the Heath bits in the chocolate chip aisle – but they don’t have the chocolate coating like the bars do. Use the bars.

When I put my cake together I didn’t want the candy bars right on top of the chocolate whipped cream. First I covered the top of the layer already on the cake plate and sprinkled on the bar bits. Then I put a light layer of chocolate whipped cream on the BOTTOM of the layer that went on next. This sandwiches the candy bar bits between chocolate whipped cream. Decadent, no? Just aim carefully. Sticking out your tongue may help get the layer centered.

You’ll need something to stabilize a cake this tall – I used 5 bamboo ka-bob skewers. Just push them through the cake after you get all the layers stacked. You can trim them with kitchen shears to the height you need. Don’t put one in the direct center and when you photograph your finished cut cake you won’t see a skewer in the middle. Plus someone will get a fun surprise in his or her piece!

For the sides, I used the chocolate buttercream frosting (Recipe at the end). I used two batches – the first to seal in the crumbs and the second a little thicker.

Refrigerate the frosted/iced cake about 30 minutes between the two “coats” of icing. I had to remove a shelf and most of the contents of my refrigerator to do so. Of course, after you’re done icing it you’ll need to refrigerate it too - Especially if you use the whipped cream filling.

To “decorate” the top of this cake I used chocolate curls. These are pretty easy to make – just buy a bar of good quality milk chocolate (or dark if that’s what you like.) I prefer the Cadbury milk chocolate bars. Hershey Symphony will do in a pinch. Incidentally – the same is true for my chocolate covered strawberries. Cadbury all the way… Anyway – just use a potato peeler to slowly and carefully cut the curls from room temp or slightly warmer chocolate. Move the curls with toothpicks so you don’t break them.

I also piped some of the whipped chocolate cream around the top and bottom edges with a large star tip. You could use the chocolate butter cream, but I like the contrast of the whipped cream.

You really have to capitalize on the gargantuan height of this cake by exploiting it with a tall cake plate and the tallest candles you can find, assuming you’re using candles. I got these candles at Target in the party section – but I’ve seen tall thin tapers in lots of places. This is NOT the time to use those short stubby things you buy in the grocery store next to the rock hard Scooby Doo and Barbie decorations.

Because this cake is so TALL you’ll have more servings – double actually, since each slice is like two average cakes tall. This is something to remember when choosing a plate to serve it on…this one hangs off a standard dessert plate. If you’re guests won’t mind the top of their cake looking a little messy, you can just cut the slices in half. Make the separation between the bottom of the second layer and the whipped cream filling on top of the third layer.

If you want to avoid hurt feelings, just give them the whole giant slice (preferred method. :0) Of course – if you’re just eating it by yourself by the light of the open refrigerator door, there’s no need to worry about the size of your plates (but maybe the size of your backside...)

You will note that this recipe isn’t in the “weight loss” sub category. You figure it out…

Chocolate Cream Filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1 ½ cups cold whipping cream
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a small mixer bowl, combine sugar and cocoa. Add whipping cream and vanilla; beat on low speed of electric mixer until blended. Beat on medium speed until stiff. (Yields about 3 cups filling.)

One-Bowl Buttercream Frosting
6 Tablespoons butter softened
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s European Style Cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

In small mixer bowl, beat butter. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Blend in vanilla.
(Yields about 2 cups frosting. I used 2 batches)

Monday, November 3, 2008

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Marketing

I happened to be in Wal-Mart night before last, and what do you think I heard over the in-store sound system?? Yup. Christmas music.

Now, ordinarily this wouldn’t bother me at all, I’ve enjoyed Christmas music, just for the pure joy of listening, not choral rehearsals, as early as late September or early October. But I see this as a marketing ploy from the big box store. “Wha-oh… is that Christmas music I hear???! Better get to spending…time is running out! Only two more billing cycles left!”

This will be our first Christmas sans Santa. I LOVE doing the surprises every year and seeing the "shock and awe" of the whole thing - but time is short and I want my kids to be clear about their beliefs and not confuse them any more. I've even toyed with the idea of quitting Christmas altogether. I know, I know... How does a woman that's been known to put up seven Christmas trees quit altogether? I LOVE the season and the baking and decorations, the music and the rest of it. Oh - and the presents... But, it’s not biblical... 'cept for what we've imposed upon it.

Now, I wonder why God didn't tell us the exact date that Jesus was born... (or died and rose again) Do you s’pose He thought we couldn't handle it??

I've "done Santa" (settle down, it's not that kind of blog...) a little different than some, perhaps. First – I’ve never allowed him to be on my main Christmas tree. Only if it was something else wearing his suit – like Snoopy or an alligator or flamingo for instance. I bought a book long before any of them were born called "The Real Santa Claus" and I read it to them every year. It goes back to the beginning of how the tradition of Santa got started (with the priest that wanted to bless his friends anon. and dropped gold down the hole in the roof that let the smoke out from the fire (the "chimbley" my Gramma would say...) and some fell into the socks belonging to the three daughters that were hanging there to dry. (The socks were hanging - not the daughters - I thought it easier to explain that rather than figure a re-write...) of this poor man.

In a nutshell, whenever anonymous gifts were left for poor folks, they all wondered who (or whom...I should phone a friend and ask...but I’m lazy) had left them. Until one day, this priest, Nicholas, (or maybe he was a bishop) passed away, and the gifts stopped coming.

Anyway - the bright people figured it out and started leaving secret gifts of their own; carrying on the tradition that Nicholas had started.

So I tell my kids this, but still have them write letters and leave out the very best cookies. (No ulterior motive there...) They're pretty bright kids, though, and they've got the whole thing worked out it in their minds. But now and then I hear one of them say, "well, it's OK if you can't afford it - I'll just ask Santa..."

OK. That's not worked out. How do you handle such a situation? Ditch the whole charade?

The way my parents did it (still - not that kind of blog...) was to bring me to the "other side" and let me be a part of the surprises and secrets. I got to help fill the stockings of others in the family and stay up late with one parent or the other creating the "magic". And then later, stay up late alone, and open all my presents and re-wrap them. But that’s another post…

So this year, when I'm out shopping with one child at a time, I might mention, "this would be good for So-n-so's stocking, don't you think?" And we've got our own little secrets going now. I think they’re really enjoying the “giving” side of the holiday rather than just the “getting” side.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll miss the old guy. But he won’t be gone completely. We’ll read the legend, keep our secrets, and still leave out the very best cookies… But the focus will be a lot more on Jesus. The real reason we overspend in December. (???)
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