Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Favorite Things, AND People

One of the things I like best about Christmas, besides the celebrations and gifts and stars and sparkles and fun, is the people in my life. Family and friend. (Sometimes, that’s the same thing.)

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Have you met Omega?  This is she.

No, she’s not singing to me. (Looks like she’s singing “Holy,  Holy, Holy” doesn’t it?)

006This is the night of our company/family Christmas party. We all got together to celebrate on the night before Christmas Eve. (Would that be Christmas Eve Eve?)

Aren’t they gorgeous? I love these girlies!

I don’t love them just because they’re pretty. (They are.)  I don’t love them just because I’m related to them. (That, too.) And I don’t love them just because I’m smarter than the average bear. (I am, at least most of the time.)

I love them because they’re nice and sweet (sometimes) and fun to be with. They don’t kick dogs and they’re nice to old ladies. 😛 I like that a bunch!

They keep me in stitches nearly all the time. When they’re around, there’s never a dull moment. E-V-E-R!

This Christmas they were the best part of the C-Town Baptist Church’s Christmas play. They performed Dicken’s Christmas Carol with a Christian twist.

The girls’ daddy (aka Omega’s husband) played Scrooge.

play-noel-2This is Noel as Scrooge, hanging with Christmas Past. (He has nice legs, huh?)

play-hope

This is Hope. She played Scrooge’s girl friend, back in the day. (Was that character’s name Bell? I don’t remember. 😦  )

play-Faith

Here’s Faith,  (some people call her Ralph) who played Scrooge’s girlfriend when they were kids. (Was Bella the name, maybe? I can’t remember.)

While the Nation Clan dominated the action, they did let a few other people act in the play.

play-noel This is Christmas Present with Scrooge. She carried a pillow and lammed him with it every now and then. He carried a cane, but never did smack her back. He has to have a lot of self-control, because he’s the local middle school principal.

playOne of these guys is a local Highway Patrolman or Lake Patrolman as well as a trapper.  If you look to the left, you’ll see Christmas Future. (I think he’s the Baptist Preacher’s son. PKs always get the best parts. 🙂  )

That boy never did forget a line. The sad thing is, that kept Omega from doing her job. (She was a very prompt prompter.)

Don’t you love Christmas programs? Don’t you wish you’d been there?


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Christmas Leftovers

A Christmas tree at Santa Claus' Park. In 2005...

I hope your Christmas was everything you dreamed it would be. Mine absolutely was. All my children were home, together, at the same time. All their spouses and spouses-to-be were here. No one cried except me, and it was the good kind of crying.

And I got to see my Dad and all my sibs except #4. I heard from her, though, so the day was p-e-r-f-e-c-t!!!

I had a couple of Christmas memories I didn’t get a chance to share with you before the big day, so I thought I’d shake them out now.

Christmas trees growing up were always cedar trees. The kind that grow like weeds in this part of the world and the government will pay you to get rid of. But as kids, we didn’t know that. We thought they were beautiful.

Besides the fact they poked you if you got too close, lost their needles (I’m not sure what a cedar has in place of leaves, but I’m calling it needles) if you looked at it too hard, and couldn’t hold up an ornament that weighed more than about three ounces (spun glass and tinsel, anyone?) what’s not to love?

After all, they were green and smelled kind of wintery-outdoorsy for about a minute and a half.

So every year, Dad and Granddad would cut several cedar trees for our houses and a few of the neighbors. I always thought they were so kind to share the trees off our land with other people, and at no charge!

When I was about ten or twelve, I found out the really good part was going out to cut the trees. We’d bundle up, pile into a pickup or station wagon, drive out to the farm and walk through the woods until we came to the “perfect” tree.

The first time Dad handed me the axe, I was so surprised, I nearly dropped it. But I stepped right up and chopped that tree right down. I haven’t cut one in years, but it seems like they were very easy to cut down. I think he let #2 cut down the next tree that day.

We never did cut the bottom off and stick it in water so it wouldn’t dry out, like they say you should do if you want your tree to stay “fresh”. We put them in water, and if they wouldn’t drink we figured they weren’t thirsty.

The worst part was undecorating the tree and getting it out of the house when the holiday was over. Not only was the tree scratchy, it kind of exploded when you moved it. Remember in Christmas Story when they go to buy their tree and one leaves a perfect ring of needles?

That’s the way our cedar trees defoliated themselves after weeks in a house with dry air. Rub past it. Thrum! Bump the wall with it. Bam! Shove it through the door. Kaboom!

Clouds of dry cedar needles. They burn well, too.

Other happy (now, anyway) and favorite Christmas memories:

  • The year #4 put “makeup” on Sister Debbie’s brand new doll with an indelible ink pen.
  • Finding gifts months after Christmas that were hidden in Grandmother’s closet and forgotten by Santa.
  • The year Mom’s beautiful bracelet (from a jewelry store!) disappeared from under the tree. When we couldn’t find it, Mama asked #4 if she knew where it was. Oh, yeah! She’d hidden it in the ice cream freezer. Upside down, smashing the bow.
  • Every Christmas, dressing like Mom and my sisters in velvet dresses that Mama made. Sometimes Brother Jeffrey got a matching vest or jacket. For some reason, Dad never sported velvet. 😉 (Not that we minded.)
  • When my kids were one, three and almost eight and they took turns opening presents so they could fight over every gift. (Mostly the one and three-year-old really picked on the eight-year-old.)
  • Hanging of the Greens.
  • All the Family Christmas Eves at Grandmother’s house.
  • Knowing the real Santa Claus (because he knew my boys by sight.)
  • My parents living out the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Knowing the One whose birthday we’ve celebrated for over two thousand years. (No, I don’t remember quite all those years.)


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Happy Christmas Eve!

A Christmas tree inside a home.
I receieved this from #4 yesterday morning and wanted to share with you.

A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the   year—overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, get that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, make sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.”

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, “Don’t worry. We already crucified him.”    

For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don’t forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think how different this whole world would be.

Celebrating The Reason For The Season, all year ’round!


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First Christmases

A Christmas tree in the United States.

I’m not talking about the FIRST first Christmas. I’m talking about my first Christmases.

When I was a kid, Santa came on Christmas morning, and didn’t wrap the presents. So when we got out of bed, our presents were out there!

In G-Man’s family, on the other hand, Santa came on Christmas Eve, and wrapped his presents.

This was when we lived in Bartlesville in a tiny little house. It’s a real Christmas tree–CEDAR.

 Here’s G-Man, wearing his gift from me. (He had a 750 Gold Wing and I wanted him to stay warm while he rode it.) He bought me that rocking chair behind him. It’s still in my living room. 🙂 I don’t know where his insulated coveralls are. LOL.

When we had kids, we had to compromise. Santa came on Christmas morning, but he wrapped his gifts.

More work for Mom. 😦

Our first Christmas with children was when we lived out at Silver Creek Ranch. I ran the dress shop (Four Seasons) and G-Man did what he does when he’s not in a pharmacy. Our tree was a REAL Christmas tree, which means it was a CEDAR. It was small enough to put on top of a card table in the kitchen, so #1 couldn’t reach it. And I bought all unbreakable ornaments in case he did reach it, nothing would break.

Somewhere I have a picture of him trying to reach the tree. 🙂 Of course.

This is Matt’s first Christmas, and Danny’s 4th. I’m not sure if Danny didn’t like to get his hair cut or if I didn’t like wrestling him into the barber chair, but he looks like a little hippie boy here.

A couple of years later, we had another first Christmas.

As you can see, Baby Bradley is disgusted, Middle boy Matt is kind of uncertain, but Big Boy Danny is a happy camper with his mouth full of candy. My kids always knew when they were around the “real” Santa because he knew them by name.

Amazing what a true saint can do! And this Santa was a true saint.

After all the boy’s first Christmases, we had the other kind of first Christmas. First Christmases with wives.

And they’ve come in order. Danny and his wife, China, first.

This year, we’ll have Matt and his wife, Nikki.

Next year, it’ll be Bradley and his wife, Nicole.

At least I have everyone’s stockings ready to fill.


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Prime Your Rib

Barefoot Contessa - Sur La Table 3

Image by urbanbohemian via Flickr

Ever been afraid of a piece of meat? Not afraid in the “boo!” sense, but afraid you’ll do something to ruin it? I have.

For the last ump-teen years, G-Man and I have bought a prime rib (or beef loin) for Christmas Eve dinner. This year we were running a little late *sigh* and when we got to the grocery store we decided to “bless” with our business, they had three primes left. Two too-smalls and one too-large.

G-Man suggested buying the too-smalls, but I pointed out that for the same $$ we could have the too-big one. We’d just have to cut off what we didn’t want to eat Christmas Eve and freeze it for later.

That piece of meat cost almost as much as my first car. Okay, my first car was really an old pickup and belonged to my grandad, who I’m sure gave me a really good deal, but still! For $20 more back in the day, I had four wheels and went places.

So I was just a little bit intimidated by this hunk of meat, and by the cooking process.

As usual, I got out my go-to girl’s cookbooks (Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa is my girl!) and once more looked up how to cook PR. (When I only cook something once a year, I have to relearn how to do it.)

You start by preheating the oven to a temperature hot enough to brand a steer (I’ve got the scar on my wrist to prove it.) Then you rub enough salt onto the meat to preserve it for the winter, then pepper, and put your expensive cut in the oven (at 500 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes of killer hot on a piece of meat that cost more than my entire monthly food budget when I was first married. I get a little nervous every year.

Then WITHOUT opening the oven to see if your meat has gone up in flames, you turn the heat down to 325. After half-an-hour of normal cook time, crank the heat back up to 450 until the center of the chunk registers safe.

There’s a resting period of twenty minutes before slicing begins. Twenty nervous, nail-biting minutes during which the woman-in-charge doesn’t know if she succeeded and will be a triumph with everyone sitting around the Christmas Tree and singing her praises, or a failure who’ll live through the rest of Christmas (and with my family, who never forgets anything–throughout the rest of time) with her tail between her legs and a big red F (for failure) on her chest. (A really big F.)

Luckily, and thanks to Ina (who is a dear cooking buddy and destroyer of diets) this year we triumphed, and I had a blast doing it.

So, what’s your favorite special meal to eat for Christmas?


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Christmas Eve

MCB-prime-rib

Image via Wikipedia

I wrote this yesterday afternoon during a lull in the activities.

 

It’s almost here!

Right now I’m roasting a prime rib. 500 degrees for the first 45 minutes. Scary stuff for an expensive cut of meat, but it works. Barefoot Contessa is never wrong. 😉

This morning I decide to make a couple of ornaments, so I snitted the first one.

 

 It looks better here than it is. Here’s closer–

It’s full of wires to hold the petals out and they poke. Not the most perfect poinsettia in the world, but it makes a big red spot on the tree. LOL.

2/3 of the kids made it last night. The prime rib was fantastic–no one turned it down or complained a bit. They know better. If they gripe, they get to do the cooking next time!

We don’t open gifts until Christmas morning, and after everyone left last night, I had several gifts to still wrap. Next year I’m investing in more gift bags and tissue paper! And should probably start decorating for the Yule on Independence Day.