We hammed it up for Christmas

By Mary Marek
Posted 12/30/99

Well, Christmas is over for another year. The hustle and bustle of holiday preparations has given way to the hustle and bustle of cleaning up the mess.

As much as I enjoy the holidays, I’m …

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We hammed it up for Christmas


Well, Christmas is over for another year. The hustle and bustle of holiday preparations has given way to the hustle and bustle of cleaning up the mess.

As much as I enjoy the holidays, I’m always happy to see them pass. My house is small and finding a place for the tree and all the other trimmings is an annual challenge. I’m always ready to pack the Christmas things away. For a little while, my living room almost seems big once all the clutter is stowed away.

It was a nice holiday, though as I look back on it, it seems that all we did was eat.

Our annual Christmas Eve family get-together was well attended. Luckily, people came and went in shifts, so the house was never actually over-crowded.

I never know how many people will show up, so I never know how much food to prepare. As usual, I had way too much. But I’d rather have too much than not enough. Actually, there weren’t that many leftovers. My brother’s family arrived late and cleaned up some of the appetizers. My nephew Nick made short work of the shrimp dip and my sister-in-law Marty took care of the dilly beans. My sister Pat took home the leftover oyster stew and we’ll have the chili and ham cleaned up in a couple of days.

Jim’s brother Gerard and sister Sherry and her family made it back from Connecticut for Christmas and made it to our house Christmas Eve. Sherry and her husband Sudharshan have two cute little boys. Neel, who is two, decided to wear his Uncle Jim’s cowboy boots. They came up to his hips. It’s a good thing he didn’t try to wear Cody’s boots. They would have come up to his neck.

Neel also was fascinated with my broom and dustpan. Where was he when I was feverishly cleaning the house earlier in the day?

Neel’s little brother Jay, who is seven months old, grinned at everyone – even aunts and uncles and cousins he’d never met before.

We got up early Christmas morning and “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house” we went (It’s actually up the hill and around the corner). After opening gifts, we feasted once again. Pat made brunch – ham, sausage gravy, bacon, little sausages, hash browns, fruit, hoska (a Bohemian holiday bread my Grandma Marek used to make). How anyone could eat after the night before, I’m not sure, but we did.

Late in the morning, everyone scattered, leaving Mom and Pat to catch their breath. My brother’s family headed to Iowa City to Marty’s folk’s house and we once again loaded up the car with food and presents and headed south to the Mareks’.

All five of Jim’s brothers and sisters and their families (except for Gerard’s wife Younglim, and Wayne’s wife Diana) made it home. There were 21 of us around the table when we sat down to Christmas dinner. Of course, we all ate too much again, but none of us can resist Mom Mary’s noodles and ham and kolaches or Pat’s veggie pizza or Fran’s taco dip (or my deviled eggs). The shrimp dip disappeared pretty fast again, too.

After dinner, we all trooped back upstairs for the package unwrapping frenzy.

Jim’s sister Fran presented each of her siblings with a “Guinness’ World Records 2000 Millennium Edition”. It’s really a fascinating book full of all sorts of facts you really don’t need to know.

For instance, did you know that the richest women in the world are the widow and daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart? They are each worth $16 billion. Or that Bill Gates, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation, is worth $90 billion? I really didn’t need to know that. What does one do with that much money?

And did you know that the costliest year for natural disasters was 1995? An earthquake in Japan caused much of the $180 billion in damages.

And did you know that the biggest spider is the goliath bird-eating spider? It is found mainly in the coastal rain forests of northeast South America. Two specimens with leg spans of 11 inches have been reported. I really didn’t need to know that, either.

And did you know that the most devious plant is the sarracenia leucophylla? Looking something like a banana with a red butterfly on top, it uses a series of lures to trap and digest insects. Alive. Yuck!!!

And did you know that Sabrina Battaglia of Italy paid $6 million (yes, million) for her wedding dress? She got married December 7, 1998. I wonder if she’s still married, and if so, did spending $6 million (yes, million) for her wedding dress make her marriage better?

And did you know that the greatest distance covered in 24 hours pushing a wheeled bathtub with a passenger is 318 miles 1,689 yards by a team of 25 from Tea Tree Gully Baptist Church, Australia, from March 11 to 12, 1995? Why?

And did you know that Alfred Wolfram of Minnesota kissed 11,030 people in eight hours at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival September 12, 1998 – about one every 2.6 seconds? Again, why?

Yes, it really is a fascinating book. I may not need to know everything in it, but it’s fun to read anyway.

New Year’s Eve is almost upon us. Jim and I will do what we always do on New Year’s Eve – nothing. We’ll probably be in bed by 10 o’clock. But for those of you who might have a New Year’s Eve party here’s a couple of recipes for appetizers.

See you all next year.

This week’s recipes

Nuts and Bolts Party Mix

Nuts, pretzels and cereal squares are all baked together with a simple seasoned coating.

1 pound shelled jumbo peanuts

1 pound mixed nuts

1 (12 ounce) package crisp wheat cereal squares

1 (6.5 ounce) package crisp rice cereal squares

1 (10.5 ounce) package toasted oat cereal

1 (6.5 ounce) package pretzel bits

1 (5.5 ounce) package slim pretzels

2 cups vegetable oil

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon garlic salt

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

1 tablespoon celery salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Combine peanuts, nuts, wheat cereal squares, rice cereal squares, toasted oat cereal, pretzel bits, and slim pretzels in prepared baking dish. Mix together, and spread out evenly in dish.

In a medium bowl, combine oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, seasoned salt, and celery salt. Mix together, and pour mixture over dry ingredients.

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until toasted and crispy, stirring with a wooden spoon every 15 minutes.

Makes 2 quarts

The Best Cheeseball

A slightly spicy cheeseball with a lot of zing. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute shredded Cheddar cheese or fresh chopped parsley.

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno chili peppers

1/2 green bell pepper, minced

1 jalapeno chili pepper - seeded, deveined and minced

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, green bell pepper, chili pepper, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt. Mix together and form mixture into a ball. Roll ball in cilantro and serve with your favorite crackers.

Makes 10 servings

Reuben Dip

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing

1 (16 ounce) jar sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry

1/2 pound corned beef, cut into small pieces

16 ounces shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and dressing.

Spread sauerkraut into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer corned beef, Swiss cheese, and the mayonnaise-dressing mixture on top of the sauerkraut.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with wheat crackers or small pieces of rye bread.

Makes 8 to 10 servings