My mother has always been in her element during the Christmas season. No matter how busy, she’s never mumbled or grumbled about Christmas. Bah Humbug has never passed her lips. As far as I can figure, she likes everything about the holiday. If it’s possible, I think she might like Christmas even more than her birthday. And she really loves her birthday.
One of the truly special things she gave us at Christmas was the annual reading of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus . A bit worn from countless readings, my mother was a tiny girl when Santa left the book under her tree.
If you’d like to track it down, be careful, there are two books of the same name. The one you want was written by Amelia C. Houghton under the pseudonym Julie Lane and illustrated by her husband Casco Charles Houghton. While Casco is in itself a pretty interesting name, his pseudonym was even better – Hokie. As a child, I always imagined that Hokie was somehow or other a spare reindeer that Santa kept around for good measure. After all, we have spare tires in our trunks; it makes sense that Santa would have a spare reindeer. Part-time flyer, part-time illustrator, I have no idea how he held his pencil.
Not just a dozen pages with few words and many pictures, it is a great big book with sixteen wonderful chapters chronicling the kind and generous life of Nicholas the Woodcarver. Although there are reindeer and a sleigh, there are no elves. It’s not set at the North Pole but Christmas stockings, Santa’s red suit and his trip down the chimney are all explained. A lovely book filled with love and generosity, it will make you cry, make you smile and fill you with goodwill. At five, I was convinced that it was all true. I still am.
At bedtime, we’d cuddle up on the couch with Mom and she’d read a chapter. She planned it perfectly to finish by the 23rd so not to interfere with Dad’s reading of Mr. Moore’s poem on Christmas Eve.
Even when I was too old for bedtime stories, I couldn’t give it up. A day or two before Christmas, I’d hole up in my room and read it cover to cover. At least I did until my sister Brenda absconded with this holiday treasure.
It was soon after her daughter was born. While I couldn’t blame her for wanting to share Santa’s story with her little girl, the theft left a hole in the run up to Christmas. I’d see it, high on a shelf in her living room every time I’d visit. On more than one occasion, I threatened to whisk the book back to Mom’s house (where I could easily borrow it.)
Before my larcenous thoughts could turn to action and create a family riff, Brenda discovered that our favorite book was back in print. She bought copies for her now grown daughter and grandchildren, my brother’s family and me.
So finally, that little hole in the run up to Christmas has been filled. This year, instead of hiding in my room or curling up on the couch for a marathon read, I’ve been sharing a chapter a day with Mom. Although, she is now in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, she still loves Christmas. Thank goodness, some things never change.
Enjoy the holidays and bon appétit!
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 orange
About 3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsulphured molasses
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
Homemade or store bought orange or lemon curd
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and powder, spices and salt. Add the grated orange zest and crystallized ginger, whisk to combine and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes, until well combined. Beat in the eggs and sour cream. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
Fill the paper liners about two-thirds full with batter. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool a few minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of orange or lemon curd.
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One Year Ago – Ginger Shortbread
Two Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Three Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Five Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Six Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have a favorite holiday memory? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2014