Less is More in Christmas Preparation

 

20171213_140224

My nativity display

Over the years I’ve cut back on all the preparation I make for Christmas. Partly because my children are grown, and my grandchildren have different interests. The other reason is my life is too full to spend the extra time doing as much as I use to.

 

This year I limited my decorating to my tree, my fireplace mantle and my nativity. Previously I had to clear off tabletops, end tables and bookcases to add more decorations. So much less work, a lovely reminder of the season and definitely less clutter.

 

coconut balls finished

Our almost 60 years old candy recipe still remains as part of my Christmas preparation.

 

I’ve reduced my baking list as well. I used to make peanut brittle, fudge, coconut balls, several kinds of cookies, special cakes and pies. Now it will consist of coconut balls, a fifty-year-old family candy and a few kinds of cookies. Oh yes, I’ll be helping the granddaughters bake pumpkin bread to give as gifts.

file0001821306584

Now that my children are grown they do a lot of Christmas baking themselves.  I will decorate sugar cookies to connect with my grandchildren and make a memory. But we will make less. Back when my five children and I did them, half the neighborhood kids would join us, and we’d make a ton of cookies, have great fun and send each child home with the cookies they decorated. But now it feels like so much more work with fewer kids who tend to get tired or bored before they are all done.

 

file000703910084

When my children were young the neeighbor children came over and decorated cookies with us every Christmas for years.

 

I used to send out many Christmas cards with a newsletter to all my family and a few friends. I haven’t sent them out in a few years. Don’t really miss doing it. Social Media keeps me in contact with friends, and if I do a newsletter, it appears online. Most cards I sent were to aunts and uncles who are now passed away.

 

We will still go see the Christmas displays around town.  Driving around with a few grandkids will make it special. We’ve never decorated the outside of the house. I love to see others’ yard displays. I take the attitude of an old Crankshaft cartoon. He took his lights and decorated the neighbors’ house, so he could enjoy looking at them. When we have added lights to the windows they have been on the inside. Illinois winter weather after the Christmas season is often brutal. So, the thought of taking down lights before the mandatory February deadline the city imposes is unappealing.

 

Christmas Scrip 2

One of the Christmas yard displays  that covers a few blocks that tells the Nativity story. A long standing yearly tradition in Aurora, Illinois since the 60s.

 

Simplifying the preparation for the Holidays gives us more time to just relax and enjoy family, friends and Christmas movies. And for a writer, less stress is always priceless.

What Christmas preparation have you eliminated this year? Exchanged for a better plan or kept because your family loves it? 

 

A Traditional Holiday Treat for My Readers

coconut-balls-finished

As a gift to my readers and in keeping with the Holiday Season I thought I’d repost an article I wrote for examiner.com a few years ago about my family’s favorite homemade Christmas treat.  Traditional treats are part of every Christmas celebration around the world. Even in our make-believe ones.  Perhaps one of your characters might want to prepare this delicious candy. 🙂

Looking for an easy candy treat that looks and taste decadent to add to your Christmas sweets. I offer you a recipe that has been in my husband’s family for 50 plus years.  He introduced this treat to me our first Christmas. Over the years all of our children have helped make this candy, and it just isn’t Christmas without it. We have given it as gifts, and it’s the centerpiece of Holiday parties.  This recipe has been modified for the modern cook. Rather than shelling pounds of pecans and mixing paraffin with chocolate chips, buy chopped pecans and almond bark or other dipping chocolate reducing the preparation time to minutes instead of hours.

This coconut ball recipe is easy enough that little hands can help. There is also the additional option of dipping the coconut balls after a few hours for a creamy texture or let them dry overnight for a firmer center.

Coconut Balls

2 pounds powdered sugar

1 can Eagle Brand Milk

1 large package (14 ounces) Angel Flake Coconut

1 pound chopped pecans

½ cup margarine

1 tsp vanilla

First, melt the margarine and remove from heat, then add Eagle Brand Milk, vanilla, powdered sugar, coconut, and pecans in that order. (If mixture gets stiff you can reheat slightly.) Roll mixture into one inch balls and place on wax paper to dry. You can either let dry a few hours or leave overnight before dipping in chocolate. Be sure they are completely cooled.

Prepare Dipping chocolate or Almond Bark according to package directions.  Melting almond bark in the microwave works great and is less messy that a double boiler. Melt 1 ½ pounds of almond bark or dipping chocolate. Dip each coconut ball in chocolate and place on wax paper.

(The original recipe called for 1 pound package chocolate chips and ¼ pound of paraffin melted in a double boiler. You have to make sure the water is hot enough and keep stirring. Too much paraffin and it tastes waxy, not enough and the chocolate doesn’t coat well.)

 

What’s your family’s traditional holiday treat? Share it in the comments. Maybe my characters would love to make it. 🙂