Christmas Message

Christmas Message for The Blog

There are as many kinds of Christmas observances as there are people who celebrate it – the turn of the old year to the the new one, observance of the winter solstice, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a chance for families and friends to reconnect in person or with Christmas cards, for retail sales to have a final fling as far as profits are concerned, to celebrate the comforts of home, to share a lavish meal, to sing in Handel’s Messiah, dance in The Nutcracker, follow the progression of the Posada, be generous to the kinfolk – or those you don’t know at all.

The customs that we observe all came from different places, some of them accretions which have little or nothing to do with the miraculous birth of a baby in an inn stable in ancient Bethlehem two thousand or so years ago. But because we are human, and relish some – or all of them as our beliefs, habits or pocketbook allow. And it’s all good, because we are human beings and need our celebrations.

From all of us at the Randy Watson Team at Mission Realty – to all of you;  our neighbors, clients and military members serving here and overseas – we wish you the merriest Christmas, the happiest of holidays and the very best of New Years.

–Randy Watson, Merry Christmas 2013!

Tis the Season

Tis the Season

by Celia Hayes

I’m afraid that I have let a lot of traditional Christmas practices go, over the years. Like Christmas cards; just one of those things I got out of the habit of doing. And Christmas Eve Midnight Mass … that’s gone bye-bye as well, just like staying up until midnight to watch the New Year arrive. Decorating the Christmas tree itself is kind of hit or miss as well – what with the way that the cats have of treating it like one big feline amusement park, which is rough on the ornaments.

But there are some new rituals – and that is watching certain new classic Christmas-themed movies every year; this year we started with Christmas Vacation – yes, the Griswald family attempting to have a picture-perfect Christmas day, from an enormous tree which they cut down themselves, to the house swathed in lights and a catastrophically over-baked turkey. I did the trip out to the tree farm to cut your own tree precisely once, and that was enough for a lifetime. And practically everyone has those relatives – the ones who arrive in a battered RV. Someone in our neighborhood does, as we spotted that decrepit RV in front of the Dollar Tree last week, and my daughter swore it was the same one from Christmas Vacation.

Next up – Hogfather – which is a two-part miniseries, making it good for two nights, although I know of fans who watch it in one single epic evening. Yes, it is skewed, warmed and amazingly funny, since it is based on one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, wherein the red-dressed guy who flies around the world depositing presents is called the HogFather, and rides a sled pulled by wild boars on Hogwatch Night.

As a natural segue from British movie absurdity, we move right into American absurdity, with Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Again, someone completely unsuited to the role takes over from Santa Claus with predictably disastrous results. Of all the directors currently active, Tim Burton is the one with the most distinctive ‘look’ to his productions. Put up any number of stills from current or recent movies – and you can pick out which ones are his, almost at first glance.

Speaking of distinctive ‘looks’ – there is another movie in our holiday schedule which cannot be mistaken – the 1986 version of Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, with the costumes and stage design taken from Maurice Sendak’s illustrations of the original story. I brought this version to my parent’s house one year and we watched it then. Curiously, although we were all very familiar with the music – Mom had never seen a whole performance of the ballet. It’s short and lively, but almost as strange as Nightmare Before Christmas; Godfather Drosselmeyer has a distinctly stalkerish vibe about him.

And finally – the chief of all modern Christmas classics – A Christmas Story. Now and again there a discussion of what year it was set in exactly; the producer apparently intended it to be a generic American Christmas, circa 1930-1950, but if you watch very closely, you can pinpoint the exact year. There are characters in the Christmas parade from the movie The Wizard of Oz, which premiered late in the summer of 1939 – so it couldn’t have been an earlier Christmas. It couldn’t have been Christmas 1941, or another wartime Christmas; everyone would have been haunted by Pearl Harbor in 1941, and in the years afterward there would have been war toys, Victory Bond drives, rationing, blackouts and all of that. There aren’t any post-war women’s fashions and hairstyles, either – so it must be either 1939 or 1940. There is a brief glimpse of the front of the automobile when the father fixes a flat tire – the yearly auto registration sticker is for 1940.
And that’s going to be my Christmas holiday – and yours?

Christmas in Boerne

Christmas Time in Boerne – Dickens on Main

by Celia Hayes

I love those celebratory events fielded by small to medium-sized towns and suburbs in Texas; when everyone pulls together for that once-a-year holiday extravaganza; New Braunfels for the Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas on the Square in Goliad, and going the full Griswold with Christmas lights in Windcrest, and now Dickens on Main in Beautiful and Historic Downtown Boerne. For the first two Friday and Saturday evenings in Boerne, they block off several blocks of Main Street in downtown, decorate all the storefronts with extravagant lights and ornaments, set up a stage for a performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and costumed carolers. We took it into our heads to check it out.

And oh, what fun – live performers, two coaches giving rides up and down Main Street, a good few food carts to supplement the half-dozen restaurants … and all the stores along that stretch of Main open until 10PM, which must in some way be a strike back against those big-box stores opening in the wee hours on Friday morning. And there was more – Santa, of course, set up in a fairy-light wonderland, vendors selling roast corn … and we had even heard there would be roasted chestnuts available! Well, everyone knows about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but darned few people who know the Christmas carol have even tasted them. We have – they were almost our favorite winter street food in Greece, where vendors would set up little charcoal braziers on the sidewalk and sell six large chestnuts or eight small in a little paper cone for 50 drachmas. Alas, it seemed that the roast nut vendor had run out on Saturday night, so we had to content ourselves with walking up and down the street, looking at the lights and dodging being run down at very slow speed by the horses pulling the open coaches.

The street got progressively more crowded as the evening went on, but it was all a happy and family-friendly kind of crowd – especially around the petting zoo set up in the town square. The goats were pretty pesky about getting fed, the little white piglets didn’t seem to be enjoying it a bit, the hens and ducks were kind of sullenly uncooperative, and the one little donkey wasn’t supposed to be given the goat food anyway, so he munched on hay and contemplated the infinite. This didn’t seem to matter to the kids; I am certain that most of them have rarely gotten up close to farm animals. (That was another nice thing about living in Greece when my daughter was small; even if we lived in suburban Athens, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and donkeys were everywhere. There was even a herd of sheep which went up to the hills every day, on the street going past the house that her baby-sitter lived in.)

I think the big draw for the kids – other than Santa himself – was the ice sculpture. Two of them set up in front of an appreciate audience to carve … something … out of two 300lb blocks of clear ice. Chisels and smaller tools were in play, of course – but the most fun was when they used chain-saws, and the spray of ice shot out and showered the kids. The sculpture turned out to be Santa waving from the top of a chimney, set on a fireplace… with a real fire burning in it.

For brief intervals, they fired up snow-making machines, and it really looked like flakes of snow floating down. But it wasn’t edible, so – not advisable to try and catch one your tongue. I don’t know but the only way to better it would be to import one of those huge snow-making machines, and cover the whole street and fronts of the buildings with snow. Dickens on Main runs again Friday and Saturday, December 6th and 7th.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS and Christmas Cookies Too

Once More, Decking the Halls with Feeling

by Celia Hayes

With one thing and another, my daughter and I haven’t really felt all Christmassy the last couple of years. Well, we went though the motions, but without much enthusiasm; the wholly sudden and unexpected death of my father the day after Christmas 2010 put a pall over the holiday generally, and being close to broke as a joke usually didn’t help. One year we had all the Christmas presents boxed and ready to go – but couldn’t afford to mail them until the following year. But this year, we’re doing OK – and felt like we should uphold the honor of our street in Spring Creek Forest by putting out the strings of icicle lights on the house and a bit of the expected seasonal jazz. No, we didn’t do the Full Griswald – just a modest string of white icicle lights across the front and side … but we did get adventurous enough to decorate the bay tree.

The bay-laurel tree is a 25-foot tall, classically-shaped-like-a-Christmas-tree and evergreen specimen that I originally bought (IIRC) as a small sapling in a 4-inch pot at the San Antonio Herb Fair. It went into an increasingly larger series of pots until I finally put it into the ground at the front of my property as part of my ‘Greek Garden’ – that is, plantings that reminded me of Greece. The bay tree flourished after a year or two – ensuring that I have never actually had to purchase dried bay leaves in the supermarket, and neither have any of my neighbors who know what it is. (And I have actually had people come to my door and ask if they can take cuttings from it.) So, we strung it around with garlands, and hung it with outsized ornaments…Although the top third of it is relatively undecorated; the ground underneath the tree is uneven, and our ladder is only an 8-foot one. I did have an idea for an invention to help in moving the strings of lights and garlands up higher – a tall pole with a Y-shaped bracket on the end. I’d have a shallower bracket on the other end, to place the strings of Christmas lights around the house eaves. Some years ago we installed cup-hooks every three or four feet along the fascia board; all we needed to do to hang lights was to un-reel them and thread the string of lights through the cup-hooks. Having my pole-and-bracket invention would let us put up the lights without the need of a ladder – much safer that way.

This year we circled around to doing cookies for those friends and neighbors. Tins from the Dollar Tree, lined with waxed paper and one of our old family favorites from the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking – Pecan Angel Slices

Pecan Angel Slices

  • Cream together until well-blended: ½ cup butter and ¼ cup sugar
  • Beat in well: 1 egg and ½ teasp vanilla
  • Combine and add to the above: 1 ¼ cup sifted flour and 1/8 teasp salt
  • Pat dough evenly into a greased 9×12 inch pan
  • Bake at 350° for fifteen minutes
  • Remove from oven.

Combine: 2 beaten eggs, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup flaked cocoanut, 1 cup chopped pecans, 2 Tbsp. flour, ½ teasp double acting baking powder, ½ teasp salt and 1 teasp vanilla. Pour over cookie layer and return to oven for 25 minutes

Combine 1 ½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar with sufficient lemon juice to make a smooth, runny glaze. Pour over warm cookie/pecan/coconut layer and allow to set.

When cool, cut into bars or squares. Bon appetite – and Merry Christmas!