Memories of Christmas Dinner Past – Missing Mom

Our silver tinsel Christmas tree, decorated with hand blown glass ornaments, stood regally in our home’s entry hall on Meramec Street, South St. Louis in the Dutchtown neighborhood. Visible from the road, strands of multi-colored cone-shaped ‘C’ style bulbs (as they were called in the 1960’s) brightly illuminated our porch, shining through the glass front door, and stationery French door (complete with mail slot).

Mom, of German heritage, cooked up the tastiest meals, preparing holiday feasts for our large group of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers.

“Turkey should only be served at Thanksgiving!”, she’d exclaim.

The choice of meat for Christmas – baked ham, coated with brown sugar, covered with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. Beef roast with red onions often accompanied the baked ham.

I’d like to think Mom was a cross between Lucille Ball and Julia Child.  She possessed the hilarity of Lucy mixed in with the masterful culinary techniques of Julia.

Image result for lucille ball pics

The precursor to preparing mashed potatoes – sipping sherry or a Tom Collins from a cordial glass or water goblet. She saved up enough S&H green stamps to buy an entire cut glass collection. Her potatoes always turned out buttery and fluffy, no matter how much she sipped.

Of course, there’d be Bing or Frank on the radio singing carols, with Mom’s voice as back-up, all the while concocting a divine creamed spinach, broccoli, or strawberry jello dish. Light on her feet, she was known to dance around the kitchen table while cooking.

Baking was another art that came easily to Mom. Donning an apron of lavender, crimson and yellow flowers (which I inherited), using the wooden rolling pin (with lacquered green handles) she’d skillfully craft pie dough on the countertop. The rolling pin, a gift from Grandma Muskopf, later was gifted to me.

Dad’s favorite pie was mincemeat – a combination of dried fruit, distilled spices and spirits, and sometimes an unrecognizable meat. (The mincemeat concoction was purchased at Bettendorf’s grocery and didn’t always list the ingredients.) Apple, coconut cream, pumpkin, or lemon meringue pies were sure to find a place on the Christmas menu, as well.

Leaning over the festive table complete with china and linens, Mom, still in her apron, struck a match, lighting the tall white candles of the shiny gold-plated hurricane lamps. As everyone took their seats, Dad carved the ham and the roast, and plates of savory sides were passed.

Long after the meal settled in everyone’s bellies, she’d be up on her feet clearing tables, hand-washing china and silverware. Grandma, aunts and cousins took turns drying the dishes.

Finally, she’d garner a seat at the kitchen table, kick off her black flats, puff a Kool menthol cigarette, followed by a sip of Folgers. Dad, with a twinkle in his eye, admired her from across the room.

The house was warm, family was content, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” played on the RCA console tv, complete with rabbit ears antenna.

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If anyone has foolproof recipes for the following, please send them my way, or feel free to comment below. I have yet to master these dishes. They were favorites from my childhood.

Some of my favorite meals that Mom rocked

  • Russian tea cakes
  • Pan fried chicken and milk gravy
  • Stewed chicken and dumplings
  • Homemade beef chop suey
  • Lemon meringue pie

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Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, recently won the Royal Dragonfly Book Award: First Place – Poetry, First Place – Fine Art/Photography, and Honorable Mention – Coffee Table Books. Mondays in October is Sheree’s love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

The River – Going With the Flow (Ethel + Robert Mirabal)

 

 

20190224_205925My long friend Tina, surprised me with tickets to see The River performed by Ethel + Robert Mirabal at the Blanche Touhill Performing Arts Center on February 24 at UMSL. I really had no idea what to expect as I’d never heard of the group before, so I settled into the comfy theatre balcony seats.

The River embodied the ritual of the Native Americans gathering near the water for events – the the birth and baptism of a child, a celebration, washing their clothes and bathing, among others. The river forged a sense of community among the people, as they would always return to the water, creating an essential spiritual role in the Native Americans lives.

Mellifluous sounds expressed through violins, flutes, and spoken word about how the river connects people throughout their life, was blissful solitude to hear. Robert Mirabel shared stories about his Native America heritage as well.

Their performance overwhelmed me with gratitude, and brought me to tears. For me, I felt connected, just being an audience member. At times, the music was so meditative, my eyelids felt heavy with slumber. I identified with The River’s concept that water is life – holding close to my heart trips to the ocean and the Great Lakes.

Waiting patiently until the audience had left, Tina and I were able to meet and speak with the group in the performing art center hallway.

I expressed thanks to Robert that the music brought me peace after recent chemotherapy treatments.

As tears welled in my eyes, Robert placed a colorful braided necklace over my head. The coral, crimson, maize, and burnt umber strands highlighted a pendant in the shape of an animal carved in wood.
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“This is Mama Bear. Mama Bear protects,” Robert smiled.

He lifted his left hand and interlocked his fingers with mine.

“Go with the flow of the River.”
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Peace, Love, and Sand dollars,

Sheree

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Sheree is the author of three books –

– Chanticleer nominated Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

– Chanticleer and Montaigne Medal nominated Midnight the One-Eyed Cat

– 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner Folly Beach Dances

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

Uncle Willie’s Farm – An Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit about Heritage

Uncle Willie's Cabin by Russell Nielsen bl wh

Today, on this brisk autumn day in the Midwest, I’d like to share a story from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits about my family heritage titled “Uncle Willie’s Farm”. The essay recounts memories of my first and only visit to the family farm. It’s by far, one of my favorites.

“Grateful for this experience with my family, I understand a little better this place called Uncle Willie’s farm. I can only envision the playground this farm provided for my mother when she was a young girl full of dreams.

I have come full circle with my heritage. As the noonday warms me from the inside out, an overwhelming feeling fills my body. My throat starts to close an tears well in my eyes. Generations have passed, yet I feel the spirits of those that came before me. I am walking on precious ground. Oh, how I wished I had been around during that era, even just for a day.”

“The ornament of a house, is the friends who frequent it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I welcome any comments below. I’ll be at Main Street Books on November 3 from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. signing copies, and doing a giveaway. If you liked this sneak peak, my book is available on Amazon, and your local bookstore Main Street Books.

The Fix-It Man – excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

I missed my blog post Tuesday due to the launch of my children’s book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat. For that I apologize.

I’ve decided to focus on family for this next excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. More specifically, my Dad Joe who passed almost 30 years ago, and the comaraderie of friends. Some friends I am still close with today…my LTF’s (or long time friends).

The title of this essay is called “The Fix-It Man”, and anyone who knew my dad quickly realized he could fix just about anything. The excerpt takes place in my first home. It’s about all the people that stepped up and took part in doing chores, readying it for my first husband and I to live in. The scene takes place after everyone is tired from a day’s work, and the evening begins to wind down.

It’s my favorite scene. I can still remember it to this day.

“The Fix-It Man”

“Upon closer inspection, I noticed a one-inch ring of barbeque smeared around the perimeter of Dad’s mouth. His sticky fingers grasped the ribs as he sunk his teeth into the meat, causing the sauce to drip, drip, drip onto the paper plate. I couldn’t tell if Chris was chuckling at my Dad’s infant-in-a-highchair look or at what he was saying. My father rather enjoyed laughing at his own jokes.

Later, as the bright tangerine sun touched down on the horizon, one by one, my friends garnered seats on the porch. Gathered around Dad like fireflies to a mid-summer night sky, they chuckled as he spun tale after tale, all the while savoring his scrumptious barbeque — pausing only to lick his fingers and tilt back a beer.”

I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. I’ll be posting another teaser on Saturday.

(Joe, the Fix-It Man) Me and Dad in Florida crop

Me an Dad at Silver Springs, Florida – photo by Mom

If you love the beach, nature, the ocean, pets, wild dolphins, sharks and family heritage, you can get your copy of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits here.

For now, peace out, love and sand dollars,

Sheree