Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Oh, Kaye!" Holidays and The Spirit of Things

Mmm, the boots have absolutely nothing to do with this piece. 

Ignore them.

except for Hank - who is giving a little bit of consideration as to whether or not she might want a pair of cowboy boots.  This is just my way of voting "yes."

Now.  Moving right along . . . .

Recently I blogged at my place, Meanderings and Muses, about people who say they hate Christmas. 

I shared my own feelings about Christmas, and about how I think people who hate it might want to consider walking away from some of the things they hate. Consider starting their own traditions that don't include those things that they find upsetting.  Things like the rank commercialization and the whole "too much" thing.  When did Christmas become so much about all the "stuff?!"  And why do children need to have 46 beezillion gifts under the tree?! 

There are years I have had to walk away from some of it.  Some years there just hasn't been much money.  Some years I was on my own and frankly, didn't feel there was much to celebrate.  And sometimes, it's just too much.

Is it any wonder this time of the year is so hard for so many?  And believe me - I do know that for many it's not simply a case of disliking Christmas and some of the commercialism.  I know full well about Christmas depression and the seriousness of it.  It's debilitating and scary.  It affects many.  And my weak little take on how to get through the holidays with a speck of sanity left is in no way meant to sound dismissive towards those who suffer what is clearly more than "Holiday Frustration."

First of all, I'm certainly not proposing anyone walk away from "all" holiday traditions.  But if there are things happening that overwhelm you or bring up bad memories, why shouldn't you toss those aside? 

Take the holiday season to teach children "your" values - not what society pushes us into.  The season is about enjoying life and the blessings we have - don't be manipulated into doing things you don't want to do just because someone else says it's the way it should be done.  Not all of us want a cooking crafting bonanza kind of holiday and prefer to keep it simple.

I think many of our time honored Christmas traditions are grand.  The old fashioned ones that I grew up with.  I love 'em and they're dear to my heart.

But some years, even those are too much. 

Like decorating our home for the holidays.  I love decorating of any kind, so holidays are the perfect excuse for me to just go kinda nuts.

I'm a lousy gardener, which makes me kinda sad, so I leave the little bit of landscaping we do to Donald.

  But I can do fun "Tablescapes!" 

And Christmas Tablescapes are THE most fun!

IF I'm in the mood.

Some years, the Santas just stay in their box under the bed.

And it's okay.

Most years, Christmas makes an early arrival at our house.  I start sneaking the Santas and a few other decorations in around Thanksgiving.  A lot of the things I use to decorate with have been with us for a very long time - and many show their age, which makes me love them all the more.  They're ragtag and dusty, which is sorta how I feel a lot of times, so I feel a special fondness for them.

Which is why I understand completely that there are some years they don't really want to come out and play.  So they don't.

And it's okay. 

I love watching the lights on a Christmas tree.  Sometimes if I can't sleep, I'll just wander into the sunroom and sit in the dark watching the lights twinkle.

I enjoy our old Christmas ornaments - the ones we brought into our marriage with us, along with the ones we've picked up together on trips.  

I also like finding ridiculously silly things to hang on the tree.


But some years, if the mood isn't there for a tree - we just don't put one up.  If things are too busy and either of us is feeling a bit stressed, the last thing we want to do is add to the stress by doing something that is supposed to be fun.  And you know, it's okay.

Another Christmas tradition I love is baking.

And I love love love baking with my mini-bundt pans.  The first round of baking has begun.

Using one of my favorite cookbooks, Bibb Jordan's "The Pound Cake Cookbook."

It's a teeny little cookbook full of the best pound cake recipes you'll find.  Fruit pound cakes, chocolate pound cakes, old-fashioned pound cakes, outrageously inspired pound cakes, a cheese savory pound cake and special miniature pound cakes.  yum.

I made several "Bittersweet & Orange Bundt-lette Pound Cakes"


And the baking was fun.  But, same as the tree.  There have been years when I just did not want to bake.  It just wan't fitting in with all those other things.  So I didn't.  And it was okay.
My wish for each of you is for a Happy Holiday Season - whatever it is you celebrate, I hope you celebrate it in a joyous, joyful manner.  In a way that makes you and yours happy and leaves you with a feeling of grace.  May it be a holiday filled with traditions, old and new, of your choosing, and one of peace.
My wish also includes this - if you or someone you love starts feeling the pressures that many feel this time of year - the feelings of loneliness, sadness, or hopelessness - reach out.  There's no shame in asking for help. 
My gift to each of you is Bibb Jordan's scrumptious recipe for these  little mini bundts.  If my name were Santa, I would deliver some to you, but, well - it's not.  So I share this recipe along with a "Ho, Ho, Ho!"
Bittersweet & Orange Bundt-lette Pound Cakes
Makes 14 - 16 mini pound cakes
Pam or Baker's Joy
1 1/2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups of sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
3 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of milk (room temperature)
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (nuggets or chopped  -  your choice)
1 Tablespoon  of finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of orange extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Spray Bundt-lette pans with Pam or Baker's Joy. (this non-stick cooking spray is needed.  The traditional method of buttering and flouring the individual molds does not work well).
Cream together the butter and Crisco on high speed until lightened in color, about 3 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar and tehn continue beating for 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, blend well, then add 1/2 cup of the milk, blending well again.  Repeat with the remaining flour and milk.
Fold in the chocolate, zest, and extracts.
Fill the Bundt-lette molds with the batter, coming to within 1/2-inch from the top.  If they're over-filled they will over-flow.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes,or until tested done.
Note:  The Bundt-lettes may not brown on the top, but when turned out of the pan, they will be a golden color and look like miniature pound cakes.
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
And now, Reds, want to share one of your favorite holiday traditions or recipes??
And by the way - Harley sends his best!


  1. It’s so true about giving yourself permission not feeling obligated to do something for the holiday just because “we always do that.” It’s supposed to be a time to enjoy, not a time to make you crazy “doing stuff” so you will “be ready” for the holiday.

    The traditions that we never skip are the ones that are “bigger” than ourselves: choosing names from the Angel Tree and buying those special gifts for a child who might not have any Christmas gifts otherwise . . . the midnight candlelight Christmas Eve service . . . getting together with family. These are the things that keep us grounded, that give the meaning to the holiday.

    Thanks for the mini-Bundt cake recipe . . . it sounds wonderful and I’m looking forward to trying it. There are many “family recipes” that are part of our holiday . . . I can remember my mom making candy cane cookies when I was a child and we have always continued that tradition because they always make the Little Ones smile.

    Candy Cane Cookies

    Sift together 1-1/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground salt

    Cream together 1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup Confectioner’s sugar . . .
    Add one egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    Mix well; stir in the flour mixture

    Divide the dough half . . . set aside one half

    Divide the remaining half in half again
    Add 2-3 drops of red food coloring to one portion of the dough
    Add 2-3 drops of green food coloring to the other portion of the dough
    Mix well to color the dough evenly

    Make candy canes
    Measure one teaspoon of the uncolored dough, roll into a four-inch long rope
    Repeat using either the red or green dough

    Take the two ropes and loosely twist them together

    Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve top to form candy cane shape

    Bake eight to ten minutes at 375 degrees

  2. That Harley is one natty little dude.

    I have red cowboy boots, but shorter and a little dressier than yours, Kaye. Found in the "Western" booth at the local antique mall for $30, already broken in.

    Boy, I needed this blog post today, you have no idea. Thank you for permission to NOT be joyful if that's how I feel. Because that is how I feel this year. But I love the tablescape idea; making one this afternoon.

    I'm also making a fruitcake recipe I've been using since the early 1980's. Whenever people say they hate fruitcake I know they may never have tasted one. This recipe is very popular with our family and friends, who welcome gifts of it eagerly enough that I know they are sincere. The recipe was on a box of Pillsbury Quickbread mix, and it's very easy, but for several years I had the hardest time finding the mix at the store. They seem to be back this year, though.

    Here's the recipe:,1919,146173-240192,00.html

  3. Thank you, Kaye, for permission not to do things for the Holidays if I don't feel like it. There are some things I'll skip this year and it won't detract from my Holiday Spirit at all.

    To repay you, here's my "recipe" for chocolate cake:

    Enter store
    Find Bakery Department
    Choose cake
    Take it home
    Eat it

    Happy Holidays to all!

  4. Joan - thank you for the candy cane cookie recipe - these sound darling!!!! I've never seen these before.

    Karen - I think I can honestly say I really never have tried "real" fruitcake. I admire you for making them but mostly I'm jealous that you found such cool boots at such a great price!

    Earl Staggs - you kill me. I'll bet your Carol is baking wonderful stuff as we speak!

  5. What a wonderful post! Love the ornamental, especially the moose.. great boots on the moose and you..always love Harley...

    Now, you have to repost this on or MysteryFanfare.. Say yes!! links to the original, of course

  6. Now I'm hungry. And looking for my old cowboy boots and wishing I hadn't lost my concho belt.

    What I remember from way back is yellow sponge cake (baked in a tube pan) with a little orange drizzled over it. I've tried to make one but it always not, uh, spongey enough. Any advice?

  7. Joan, I think I'll try your candy cane cookies this year, but I think I'll use peppermint extract instead of almond. These sound really good, thank you!

  8. Thank you for this post.
    Today I am at my daughter's, where I have been for a week, and where I will be for several more days. My son-in-law had surgery. He's home now, but pretty miserable -- although the prognosis is all good.
    So, Christmas is being pushed aside this year.
    I decorated my house quickly, and took pictures. I started yesterday, sharing one a day on -- as much for myself as for anyone else.
    I was not going to bake -- but now I am going to find time to make the candy cane cookies!
    Every year has its own challenges, but we who love holidays find a way to celebrate.

  9. by the way, kids, if you would like to read a great interview with our Hank today, scoot over to Thelma's place -

  10. Janet - I would love it! Thank you!

    Hallie, I wish you hadn't lost your concho belt too! (but is it at least a good story??)

    Denise Ann - sending good thoughts to you, your daughter and your son-in-law. Somehow, baking does help me deal with tough stuff. It seems to find a way of settling in more gently when I'm mixing up goodies to share and smell those sweet smells emanating from the kitchen.

  11. Best of holiday cheer to you, Kaye, and that hound dog.

    My wife loves to decorate things, especially Christmas trees, so we have three. I just finished my favorite tradition, hauling in three metal trees from the garage, tripping over the dangling wires, banging my knuckles on the doorways, frightening the dog and cat, and finally knocking over two lamps getting them in the right spot. Next month I get to take them out. I love the holidays.

  12. KAYE! Just saying--I am coming to move in with you. Really. ANd we can go boot shopping. ( ;-))

    We just planted three lovely evergreens in our back yard I keep tring to NOT htink of htem as Three Pines). And I am thinkin'--they could se some decoration. Or -not. YOu are such an inspiration!

  13. Concho belt--yup. Thirty years old and wore it last Saturday. My pack rat tendencies--this time--successful.

    Karen in O--thank you. That actually sounds good!

    (Ooh, Janet lovely of you!)

  14. I lost a lot of holiday cheer when I became a retail manager. Thanksgiving for me this year included a bowl of leftover pulled pork eaten at my desk while pulling a 28 hour shift. Once I make it past black Friday, I am usually done. But last night my husband and I did something we haven't done in years- we drove around town, looking at the decorations other people have the energy to put up. And it warmed my heart for the true spirit of the holidays. If y'all are baking, you can send some my way. I just don't have time!

  15. Just found mini-bundt pans and the cookbook (used) on -- my friends are getting bundt cakes!!

  16. Jack, oh Jack - I'm sorry. (but it did make me laugh - sorry sorry sorry).

    Hank - Boot Shopping! YES! And you made me laugh too - Three Pines is a place many of us are dying to find, now we'll know it's actually in your back yard!

    I wish I had a concho belt. :-(

  17. Great post and a wonderful way to try to get people to de-stress a bit. Unfortunately, the holidays are way too much about the "stuff," especially when homes get split and both parents try to "make up" by buying more. Excellent thoughts on how to cut back on that!

  18. oh, Cy. A 28 hour shift. I cannot even imagine. I worked retail a couple times as a second job (between marriages). I only worked one Christmas and it was in the fine jewelry department of a major Atlanta department store at a big mall. Suffice to say it was not a happy experience. Not for me - not for major Atlanta department store.

    I'm glad you got out for your ride and that it helped. Sometimes those Christmas lights really do work some magic, I think.

  19. Denise Ann - Yay!!!!!! I promise they'll be a hit, they're just so darn cute.

    Terry, Thank you. I'm a firm believer in marching to our own drums (is that how that saying goes??). Time to stand up for making our own happiness our own way and it doesn't have to cost a whole bunch of money. It just doesn't.

  20. I heard something wonderful the other day... Where? On Facebook, I think. Someone said they overheard a dad tell his three sons, "Okay, you each get four presents this year. Four presents only. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read."

    Maybe it's just one of those things going around, but wherever it came from, I love it!

    I don't bake. (I put my cranberry relish recipe on JR last year.) I don't cook on Christmas because we go to my hubby's family on Christmas Eve and my aunt's on Christmas Day. I don't do a lot of shopping, but we do like to unwrap little things. (Never been much for big-ticket items at Christmas.) But we put up some lights (today), put up a real tree (next weekend) and I put out mostly what Kaye calls "tablescapes", although not as many as I used to.

    Thanks, dear Kaye, for giving us all permission to have some sanity in our Christmas.

  21. Love the idea of doing what feels right. I've decorated my Norfolk Island pine and pineapple plant (grown from the top of the pineapple my niece bought on our trip to Hawaii). I might just try Karen's fruitcake and/or her zucchini and/or pumpkin bread recipe, also good. I might just copy Earl's recipe, go to 4 Seasons Bakery, buy treats. The special advantage of that plan is having just a little of whatever I buy . . .
    However you celebrate, may you be happy ;-)

  22. Interesting.

    I'm one of those people who blithely says I hate Christmas (and football). It's partly sincere and partly a tease for my Christmas (and football)-crazed relatives.

    But--I'm not depressed. I don't criticize people who love Christmas. So I hate a holiday other people love--why does that matter to anyone? Do we all have to love the same holidays equally? Some people love the 4th of July fireworks. Some people hate them. Nobody rags on them. But say you hate Christmas, and there is something wrong with you and you are to be pitied. Huh?

    That being said, Christmas is complex on a much more serious level than the trappings. It is impossible to escape, and there is the rub. Think of the people who are not religious. The people I know who are doubters and/or atheists may not enjoy a FB wall full of little signs instructing everyone to keep the Christ in Christmas. If I do not believe in the existence of a creator and that Jesus was his son, what do I do, ethically? Not celebrate Christmas. But if you do that,other people who call you sad and assume you are depressed. Which, frankly, amuses me.

    There is no pleasing everyone. I do my duty to my children and provide a nice holiday. I participate so as not to upset my family, but I still don't like the holiday. If that bothers someone, it's really not my problem. I'm fine with hating Christmas (and football.)

  23. Ramona - Good for you for standing by your convictions! Which is exactly what I'm applauding

    Story Teller Mary - Earl does seem to have the right idea, doesn't he?! (leave it to Earl).

    Debs, I LOVE the idea this person had for his kids for 4 gifts. Brilliant, I think. (and thank you - once again you've made me feel so welcome here at Jungle Reds. I love it here).

  24. I forgot to add, I may hate Christmas, but I do love pound cake. That recipe looks delish!

  25. I know what you mean about sometimes not wanting to decorate. I brought some of my Christmas decorations up yesterday from the basement, and couldn't find one that fits on the wall with the others in the kitchen. Hope I find it, because I had substituting!

    On another note - I'd hoped to have the basement in shape for Christmas, but I don't think that's going to happen. I find it's either the house or the writing, and lately it's been the writing!

    Morgan Mandel

  26. Kaye, you are wonderful... I needed this today– a smile and thoughtfulness with a wink. Oh good grief... my captcha is 12 popovers. xo

    Hank... three pines... too much! xo

  27. Love the recipe!

    Can I use it to make one big bundt cake instead of the bundt-lettes?

    (so I don't have to buy new pans?)

    On decorating, I am not crazy about decorating and was trying to work myself up to it, when my daughter called this morning and begged that I wait and let her do it when she gets home from school on the 18th.

    It felt like an early Christmas present!!

  28. Ramona, The recipe really is delish. I love pound cake and this little bitty cookbook has some of the best.

    Jan, I don't know about using it to make one cake - I've never tried it. If you try, let me know, please!

    Reine - glad to make you smile, girl!

    Morgan, Hope you find that missing decoration. I get frustrated when I misplace something. makes me nutty.

  29. So--are we all sending each other holiday cards? I WANT to, I really do...

    Is there any way to share addresses?

  30. Hank, how about one of you Reds share your email address, and invite people to send their names and addresses to that single address?

    Then the compilation could be sent back to everyone.

    I'd send cards to you all, even though I don't really send many cards (we send out a calendar, instead).

  31. OK! (I mean, oh, Kaye..)

    My email is h ryan at whdh dot com

    NO PRESSURE. But I will compile and send to those who ask!

    Put JRW cards in the subject line, okay? I will email "got it" when I get it..if you don't get a got it, I didn't get it.

    Get it? Got it. Good.


  32. Kaye, I tried to send this but guess it did not fly.. So... I was all ready to copy your recipe then I saw Earl's and all my earnest intentions to cook flew away! I'm not much of a cook, but I'll try again... you do have a lovely way of bonding people together. Thelma Straw in Manhattan - hoping everyone here will have the kind of holiday that makes you feel special and loved!

  33. What a great idea to send cards! This might be the "something different" that gets me moving this year. I'll get my email address to you, Hank. If I do manage to send cards, folks, please be forewarned that I often do not mail cards until AFTER Christmas...a combination of procrastination and trying to extend the season.

  34. Hank, I'm on board for cards, too. They are on my desk. Well they've been on my desk for a few years, now. Okay, they were in a big box under my desk in Boston. I unpacked them here in Tucson. I added a few more boxes. They are still here on my desk. I can no longer call that procrastination. I do want to send them out. I believe this is the year.

    I make a cherry chocolate rum fruitcake. I kind of made up the recipe. It goes like this. Find a recipe for dense fruitcake, preferably the boiled or steamed type. Definitely not the kind with any raising agent such as baking powder or anything like that! A plum pudding recipe works great.

    Forget all the colored candied fruit thingies. Instead use a huge jar of maraschino cherries and a big bag of chopped walnuts– as much as you can force into the dough. Add a cup of premium dark cocoa powder. Cook it. Pour the rum over the cake, letting it soak in until it won't take it anymore. You already have it wrapped in cheesecloth, right? Good. Now fold the excess over the top.

    Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil. Open every few days and add a little more rum, pouring through the cheesecloth cover.

    Some people say it's too late already for this year. It isn't. It will be great, but make two and save one for next year. They'll be ten times as good.

    Don't tell anyone it's fruitcake. Tell them it's a cherry chocolate steamed rum pudding with walnuts. Better make a whole bunch, because everyone will want one– as long as you don't tell them it's fruitcake. I'm serious. I cannot be responsible if you tell them.