Christmas

Writing 101 Challenge: Special Food

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‘Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory. Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.’

Many foods and dishes went through my head for today’s writing prompt. There’s special French toast at each birthday, rice pudding with left over rice, egg dish at Easter, and favorite dishes at potlucks. I picked an overall food group that makes the season. I choose Christmas cookies at Christmas.

Christmas cookies have been part of my Christmas celebration for as long as I can remember. I always knew the season started when my mom began making cookie dough. There was never ever just one type of cookie made. Instead there was a wide variety to please most stomachs: sugar cookie, gingerbread, peanut butter balls, killer balls (chocolate bon bons), molasses, and always a new cookie to try.

My mom, sisters, and I put on aprons ready to help measure, stir, crack, and taste. Licking the beaters was always the best. (I’ve eaten raw cookie dough as long as I can remember.) The cookie production was always messy and chaotic, but at least only one kind was made at a time. Everything flowed within the flour mess as each had a job. Laughter and Christmas music was heard in the background.

Anticipation hung in the air as the cookies baked. We peaked from outside watching them bake. Finally, the moment to taste our delicious creations. Silence as we took our first bite then smiles and mmms were suddenly heard. Christmas is truly here.

Now came the fun part to give personality to each cookie. Sugar cookies and gingerbread were frosted with bright colors, candies, and sprinkles to dazzle. Each looked so unique that you almost didn’t want to eat.

Cookies were carefully selected and placed on plates. Plastic wrap held them together with a red ribbon. The cookies were ready to give to friends, family, and neighbors. Our special treats became theirs to taste. The Christmas season was truly here.

 

 

Merry Christmas from the Grinch!

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Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!

― Dr. Seuss

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a safe and festive holiday!

Goodbye Christmas

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If you visit you’d find no Christmas decorations, cookies, holiday songs in the background, and peppermint scent. (I feel bad for peppermint, since its only time to really shine is December.) If you turn on your radio, you won’t hear Christmas music. After listening for weeks they suddenly cut you off. Personally, I think they should gradually stop the songs. Perhaps just a few Christmas songs every hour.

We spend weeks or maybe months for some individuals preparing for the holidays. We plan meals and return to stores for ingredients we forgot the first time. We hope our best clothes or that ugly Christmas sweater looks presentable. There’s debate about who should get what. Perhaps even family arguments and conflicts occur with those you hardly see. (We secretly wish they’d perhaps leave the gathering sooner.) Christmas decorations are hung and they soon look part of the room. And the actual event takes place for just a few days.

Most people have traditions during the holiday season whether they realize it or not. Perhaps you spend a weekend picking the perfect Christmas tree in the woods. (I’ve never done that. I’m always reminded of the scene in the movie Christmas Vacation.) Maybe you view Christmas lights all over town. Maybe you cook certain foods only during the holiday. Our hearts pour out with goodness as we donate, share, and give.  Traditions and the it’s-Christmas-so-I-must-be-kind feeling makes everything special. The season may be over, but hopefully that cheer and goodness carries throughout the year.

Even though the season may be over, there’s still positive aspects. You can easily get a parking spot and won’t be waiting in long lines at the store. Those annoying Christmas songs vanish. Our schedules are back to normal. There’s no more delicious food to tease us, which we know shouldn’t be eaten.

We may say goodbye to Christmas, but keep that holiday spirit within you throughout the year. If you need a refresher, don’t be afraid to enjoy Christmas music anytime of the year. If you’re lucky maybe you’ve even saved holiday treats in the freezer. It comes just once a year, so hopefully yours was memorable.

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

― Charles Dickens

Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad

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José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad 

written and illustrated by David Diaz

song lyrics by José Feliciano

All Ages, 28 pages

I was excited when I discovered this book at the library, since “Feliz Navidad” is one of my favorite Christmas Songs. (Go ahead and click the video to listen while you read.) In the book, José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad the reader almost sings along as the lyrics are slowly written on the pages. José Feliciano was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York at a young age. He wrote “Feliz Navidad” when he was homesick during the Christmas season. Feliciano was born blind, but that didn’t stop this songwriter who won six Grammy Awards with more than sixty-five albums. The book describes a parranda that is a Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico. A parranda is basically a caroling parade when neighbors and friends surprise each other from house to house with small instruments. The festive parade lasts hours and moves through the neighborhood with singing, dancing, and food. At the end, there is a huge feast and cookout often with a roasted pig that brings everyone together. The book was very colorful and festive, which is appropriate for such an upbeat Christmas song.

 

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale

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The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale

by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Wendy Edelson

Ages 8 & up, 32 pages

Van Amsterdam is an honest baker in the Dutch colonial town that later becomes Albany, New York, who gives exactly what his customers pay for. Van Amsterdam was always busy, because people trusted him and his treats were so good. He was especially busy before December 6 to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. The gingerbread cookies painted red and white with a bishop cap are famous throughout town. An old woman enters the store and demands another cookie, but Van Amsterdam isn’t tricked since a dozen is twelve. However, after meeting the old woman everything goes wrong in his bakery and no customers enter his bakery. Van Amsterdam has a dream that Saint Nicholas himself gave him one of his own cookies but realizes that it was the old woman. He awakes and realizes that he can give his customers more. Van Amsterdam is determined to get his customers back as he bakes many Saint Nicholas cookies. The old woman enters and she’s pleased when the baker hands her thirteen cookies instead of a twelve.

 

Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons

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Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jane Dyer

Ages 5 & up, 40 pages

Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons is similar to a vocabulary book with lessons than an actual story. You may not realize it, but there are many lessons and emotions when we make cookies. Each page has a bold word and definition that relates to the cookie making process.  Some of the words and lessons mentioned are Anticipation to wait all day to make cookies,  Charitable to give a batch to people, Frustrated that the cookies burnt again, and Family to enjoy the cookies together. In the book, animals have human-like characteristics as they help bake and share cookies. If you enjoy this book, the author wrote similar food lesson books. Personally, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without baking and sharing cookies.

 

Weekly Quote: Dr. Seuss’ Christmas Grinch

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What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

― Dr. Seuss (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)

A Piñata in a Pine Tree

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A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas

By Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales

Ages 5 & up, 32 pages

A Piñata in a Pine Tree is a delightful Spanish version of Twelve Days of Christmas. The only English is the first line on each page then the other items are listed in Spanish. Instead of a true love the girl receives gifts from her amiga. The pictures are colorful and capture a festive Christmas mood. The end of the book provides a glossary and pronunciation guide. The author also highlights Latino traditions, such as luminarias (paper lanterns) with a brown bag that has a candle inside. Luminarias symbolize lighting the way for the Christ Child. Another tradition mentioned are various foods eaten, such as pastelitos (small pies or turnovers) and tamales. The illustrator explained that the Twelve days of Christmas begin on December 26 and end on January 6 when Los Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) visit young children with gifts. I enjoyed this cultural and informative book.

Gifts received:

Uno piñata in a pine tree
Dos pastelitos (two turnovers)
Tres tamalitos (meat wrapped in corn husks)
Cuatro luminarias (four paper lanterns)
Cinco guitarritas (five guitars)
Seis trompos girando (six spinning tops)
Siete burritos bailando (seven dancing donkeys)
Ocho pajaritos serenando (eight serenading birds)
Nueve campanitas sonando (nine bells ringing)
Diez estrellitas saltando (ten stars skipping)
Once lunitas cantando (eleven singing moons)
Doce angelitos celebrando (twelve angels rejoicing) 

How Santa Got & Lost His Job

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How Santa Got His Job

By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Ages 5 & up, 32 pages

Have you ever wondered how exactly Santa found his perfect job? His first job was a chimney cleaner, but nobody believed he did a good job since he never got dirty. He tried his luck at delivering the mail, but nobody enjoyed getting their mail late at night. He worked at a zoo and knew when the animals were awake or sleeping, but became too attached to the reindeer. Santa and the reindeer joined the circus, but he was having too much fun getting shot from a canon. Finally, Santa stumbled onto the perfect job when he met some elves. They made wonderful toys, but it was too difficult to deliver all the toys. Santa and his reindeer are up for this challenge in this delightful book that will surely make you smile.

How Santa Lost His Job

By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Ages 5 & up, 32 pages

Santa has his own system before getting ready on his big night. He checks the weather, carefully packs the sleigh, and feeds the reindeer. However, the elves believe that Santa is too slow and needs a better plan. So, one elf builds a replacement for Santa, which is machine called the Deliverator. Santa states that there’s more to his job, but trusts the elves since they make the toys. The elves have a contest between Santa and the Deliverator to determine which is faster and more productive. Santa and the Deliverator race to get ready, sort through the presents, and deliver presents down the chimney. Santa lost the contest, since he stops to eat the cookies and takes a long bubble bath before getting ready. However, situations occur when the elves need Santa to help save the busy night.

Non-edible Cinnamon ‘Cookies’

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Are you looking for a cookie that smells delightful, has no calories, and lasts many Christmas seasons? Well, the cookie isn’t exactly a cookie; instead it’s a Christmas ornament. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be just for Christmas, since the wonderful cinnamon smell and decorations can be enjoyed year round. This craft is a wonderful activity for young children, but remind them not to eat it.

Supplies:

-          1 cup of cinnamon
-          1 TBSP of nutmeg
-          1 TBSP of cloves
-          1 – 2 TBSP of Elmer’s Glue (The glue isn’t necessary, but it holds the substance better.)
-          ¾ cup of apple sauce
-          Drinking straw
-          Ribbon
-          Cookie cutters

Directions:

-          Mix all the spices and apple sauce into a bowl. Do not add the glue.
-          Depending upon the dryness or moisture you may need to add more cinnamon or apple sauce.
-          Knead the dough. Trust me your hands get very sticky
-          Add a little glue and mix thoroughly.
-          Roll the cinnamon dough onto a clean flat surface. Use cinnamon if it becomes too sticky on the rolling-pin.
-          The dough should be about ¼ inch thick, so that it doesn’t break.
-          Cut shapes with cookie cutters.
-          Use a straw to put a hole for a ribbon. This needs to be done before the dough dries.
-          Place cinnamon ornaments onto a ungreased cookie sheet.
-          Bake the ornaments at 200 F for about 1 ½ – 2 hours. Turn the ornaments over about every 30 minutes. If you don’t want to dry the ornaments in the oven, then put them in a dry location. They should dry in about 4 days. I baked mine and the smell was heavenly. You may wish they were cookies.

-          When the ornaments dry, put a ribbon through the hole.

Put the ornaments upon the tree, wreath, or even attach onto a present. When the season is over, package the cinnamon ornaments in paper towels to keep the smell.

 

Book Review: Three French Hens

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Three French Hens

by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Richard Egielski

Ages 6 & up, 36 pages

Humorous

On the third day of Christmas a mademoiselle from Paris sent her true love three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. However, there was a major problem with a smudged address because the hens never arrived to the true love. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi decide they will deliver themselves and find Monsieur Philippe Renard. They look in the New York City phone book and discover that they’re actually searching for Phil Fox. As you may have guessed, Phil Fox is a fox and hasn’t had a good meal in a month and has no friends. Phil Fox opens his door and sees his next meal. Before he realizes it, the French hens have bathed him, decorated his house, and cooked delicious food. Phil Fox feels somewhat guilty, because he’s not who they think he is and isn’t even French. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi don’t care at all and like their friend just as he is. Phil Fox is touched that the French hens consider him a friend. A great friendship forms between three French hens from Paris and Phil Fox from the Bronx.

Book Review: The Christmas Wish

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The Christmas Wish 

by Richard Siddoway

Fiction, 203 pages

Will Martin lost his parents at age four due to a car accident and his grandparents raised him as their own in a small town. When Will’s grandfather died he left his busy life in New York City and returned home to manage his  grandfather’s business that lacked technology and where a firm handshake was worth a signature. His grandparents wrote in journals every year that they didn’t share until death. His grandmother tells Will that she’s been reading the journals and discovered that when Will and her went on their traditional shopping trip on Christmas Eve, her husband secretly saw a woman named Lillian. His grandmother’s Christmas wish is to discover who Lillian is and why her devoted husband never mentioned the name. Will learned more about his grandfather from others in town as he attempts to discover information about Lillian. Will also grew as a person as he respects the business, town,  and realizes who the real Will is.

The Christmas Wish was a fast read with a wholesome and inspiring message. It had a Hallmark or Lifetime movie feeling and my prediction was correct after reading other book reviews. I never saw the movie version, but I’m sure it’s a nice Christmas ‘feel good’ movie. The mystery of who Lillian is may be easy to guess after a while, but it’s still a meaningful book.

 

Light the Lights: A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah & Christmas

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Light the Lights!: A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah & Christmas

written and illustrated by Margaret Moorman

Ages 6-9, 32 pages

Emma’s family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. The holiday religions aren’t mentioned, but the book highlights the family’s traditions during the holiday season. The book begins with Emma helping unpack and clean the menorah. They light the lights each  night and set the menorah near the window for everyone to see. The children play dreidel, exchange Hanukkah gifts, and taste latkes. Soon the family picks a Christmas tree and decorate it with friends. They light the lights upon the Christmas tree as the tinsel and lights shine. The season ends as Emma helps put away the Hanukkah menorah and Christmas decorations inside the same box.

I enjoyed this book, because not many books highlight families that celebrate different holidays. I like the book’s title Light the Lights!, since each holiday has its own version of lights that brighten the dark winter nights. This book can especially be a welcome for families that celebrate various religions in the household.

Book Review: A Chanukah Noel

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A Chanukah Noel: A True Story 

by Sharon Jennings, illustrated by Gillian Newland

Ages 8 & up, 24 pages

Realistic Fiction

Charlotte’s family moves to France and she’s not happy since everything is different and she’s called  a foreigner. She’s placed in a lower grade and her mother tells her that she’ll catch up when other’s have their holiday, which is Christmas. Charlotte doesn’t want to study hard while others celebrate. Her mother reminds her that they’re Jewish and celebrate Chanukah. She feels left out, since all over there are Christmas decorations, treats, and toys. Her class has a holiday party and a classmate, Colette, who teased her states that she forgot a gift for the trade. Charlotte believes it’s silly that she forgot until she learns that Colette is poor and can’t afford a class Christmas gift. Charlotte thinks of an idea to bring a hint of Christmas while celebrating Chanukah. Charlotte’s family help provide Christmas for Colette’s family with food and gifts.

I thought this was an enjoyable book that highlights that even though individuals may celebrate different holidays, the spirit of generosity remains the same. Charlotte didn’t exactly celebrate Christmas herself, but she learned that a good deed forms friendship and cheers others. A Chanukah Noel  can be especially helpful if  a family celebrates more than more than one holiday.