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This holiday season, we have the privilege of sharing some heartwarming and funny memories and some delicious recipes from three of our Still Hopes Retirement Community residents. 

Laurely Nance

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

Citrus fruit was a real treat in Cincinnati in December back in the late 30s.  My Christmas stocking always held a tangerine, a walnut or two, an almond, and hard candy.  We had to eat our tangerine before we could go downstairs to see the tree and our presents.  I tried that with our three children.  It backfired!  They still laugh whenever I mention tangerines and agree that was a tradition best forgotten.

Counting down the days

When my husband was stationed in Germany in 1962 and ‘63, I discovered Christmas Advent calendars.  There was a tiny window to open every day for 24 days showing candy, cookies, wreaths and bells, but on the 25th, the window revealed the baby Jesus, the Christ Child.  I sent many as gifts to young parents.  Our children looked forward to that calendar every year.

“Santa” brings the tree

German tradition in Cincinnati was that Santa brought the tree at Christmas.  My parents would hide the bought tree in our enclosed garage.  Of course, my bicycle was also in that garage.  I would tell my mom that I wanted to go bike riding.  She would snap “it’s too cold,” or “your big sister will get it out for you,” or “I need you to ....”   On Christmas Eve after I was asleep, Daddy would set up the tree and decorate it.  He fell one year, barely catching himself on the mantle.  I never heard a thing!  It was always so miraculous to me how Santa remembered to always trim our tree with the same well loved ornaments every single year without fail.

Santa’s been here

Our younger daughter remembers the bell pull hung next to the Christmas tree.  There were big sleigh bells spaced on it from top to bottom.  When those sleigh bells pealed their merry sound on Christmas morning, I would call out “Look, Santa’s been here.”  All three children would tumble out of their beds and come traipsing in to the tree together.  That daughter thought it was extra special because they all came together.  No one sneaked in ahead of the others to peak and check it out.

Favorite Christmas presents

My husband, Luke, got a Red Flyer stake body wagon one year.  He hauled everything in it.  I’m surprised he didn’t want to sleep with it!  That was his most prized possession.  I was not surprised when he bought a Red Flyer stake body wagon for our first grandson.  We have lots of cute pictures of our grandchildren in that new little red wagon.

I had a Madame Alexander doll, McGuffey Ana, that I dearly loved and played with a lot.  One Christmas there was a beautiful doll under the tree.  She had blond hair piled up in curls on her head.  She was a vision in a floor length black velvet cape lined with peach satin.  Her ball gown was peach satin with a peach lace overlay.  I was in love!  I grabbed her and was scampering up the stairs to my room when my mother asked where I was going.  “I want to introduce her to McGuffey Ana,” I replied.  “Honey,” my mother said, “that is McGuffey Ana.  I just fixed her hair and made her a new outfit for you.”  That burst my bubble.  For a moment I thought I had two dolls!  By the way, she still has her original trunk, drawers full of clothes, her original straw hat plus shoes and socks.   Her hair, though, is getting as thin as mine but we both are happy here at Still Hopes and still looking good!

Laurely’s Sweet Potato Casserole

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • ⅓  stick butter, melted
  • 1-½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients, pour into 2 1/2 qt baking dish

TOPPING:  

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed down
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ⅓ stick butter, melted

Stir together and crumble on top of potatoes.  

Bake 350 degrees 30 to 35 minutes.

Laurely’s Christmas Coffee Cake (also now baked by her daughters every year!)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1-½ cup Bisquick                    
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓  cup sugar                           
  • dash of cinnamon
  • ½ Tbsp. oil                                
  • ½ cup milk                             
  • 1+ cup of the following combined: fruit cake mixed fruits (including cherries cut in half), chopped pecans, chocolate chips and raisins.

Stir all ingredients together.  Mound into a low round baking dish, well greased.  Sprinkle top lightly with cinnamon and sugar, or decorate with Christmas colored sugars in a wreath or tree pattern or pecan halves around the edge.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes til done.  Test with a toothpick.  Don’t overbake! 

 

Mary Ross and Sally Wiseman (sisters)

Sally has clout with Santa

Mary: When Sally was about six- or seven-years-old she wrote a letter to Santa, asking him to “bring my little sister and me a doll, and please bring my brother a wagon.” And he did! We felt like Sally had an “in” with Santa, and that she could get us whatever we wanted for Christmas!

Christmas on the farm

Mary: Our aunt had a farm out in the country where the whole family on our mother’s side would gather for Christmas. 20 to 30 people would be staying there! No matter where you were at Christmas you came home so you can be with your loved ones. There was wonderful food - our grandmother’s chess pie and my mother’s ambrosia salad too. 

Sally: My cousin, my sister, and I would all pile into a big four-poster feather bed on Christmas Eve. Our family was close and we have always had such wonderful memories there. 

Butterball the pony

Mary: Everyone always asks for a pony but never gets one. One year, we got a pony for Christmas! His name was Butterball. After that, we found out ponies can be very stubborn!

Passing along the tradition

Mary: Years after the cousins all had kids and the families got too big to stay at the farm, Sally would carry on the tradition of gathering our family at her house. And sometimes we would invite a few extras! All the children would come no matter where they lived. 

Sally: I had four boys and now one of those sons has carried on the tradition with his wife. It’s been passed through four generations!

 

Merry Christmas to our entire Still Hopes family!