Tag Archives: holidays

Joey parked here … The Holiday Season: a Giving Season!

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Chef Joey

By Chef Joey

For many folks the holidays mean a time of happiness, Santa pictures, gatherings and delicious meals. …

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Chef Joey donates his time and talent every Christmas – he donates and cooks all the turkeys and makes vast amounts of turkey soup and stuffing for his friend Boa’s nonprofit, the Southeast Asian Coalition. photos: Boa Newgate

… I know people who start their gift shopping as early as July! (Maybe a personal attempt to throw the spending numbers off that retailers thrive by!) Many organizations have fundraisers and the Salvation Army hand bells can be heard at just about every market and store and, of course, who says no to Toys for Tots?

I have a foster daughter this season and was invited to “Family Appreciation” day hosted by the Department of Children and Families. It was held at the DCU center (I almost typed Centrum!), and much to my surprise there were hundreds of families there! All of us had a common link: We were all foster parents. Some with one child and I met a family of four! What was amazing is the fact that everyone was there to enjoy themselves. It was a veritable “League of Nations”! There were children and parents of all ethnicities, mixed families, and when I say families, they all were together and smiling.

Santa and Mrs. Claus were there too, and there were so many families they called them up by tables of 10. And there were more than 50 tables! – just to give you an idea.

We were table 38 so we got to watch what was planned. Hats with antlers made by tracing your child’s hand and then cut out and taped to a band that fits across the forehead. Then there were the gingerbread men decorating stations. Face painting is always a hit with kids and the ice cream buffet was a guarantee that everyone would stay awake – never mind the 20 foot table of various candies!

As we got called up to meet Santa, we talked about where the children came from, how long we had them, etc. and that’s when I looked at the stage and saw a young man, say no more than 9 or 10, attempting to climb the two steps to see Santa himself, refusing help, as he had arm crutches in both arms and two very twisted legs. He was so determined to get there without assistance, you could see the effort in his face. When he reached the top he smiled. Made his way to Santa and sat on his knee, face beaming as he recited his list of whishes. Then he smiled for the camera, got up and walked across to the finish line per se where he was handed a wrapped toy, which he handed to his foster mom, who was not the same ethnicity, but had a parental smile that melted me. She gave he foster son a hug and helped him down back to the floor level and he was telling her all about it, as if she had not seen. This was a classic case of “To love and be loved is the greatest gift of all!”

After a few snacks and comradery, we left and were greeted with a table of books, crayons, coloring pencils and other complementary items that were gleefully distributed to the attendees, all passed out by volunteers. Today everyone was making a difference.

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The Southeast Asian Coalition celebrates!

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Mr. Boa D Newgate, now a Culture Broker for the Southeast Asian Coalition recently wrapped up his Thanksgiving party and was busy getting ready for Worcester First Night, where his team of Lion Dancers once again performed.

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Boa’s story is simple: He was a refugee with his parents and sibling. They made it to the United States and fortunately to Worcester. Boa saw inner-city kids who were not amounting to much, so he decided to show them boxing and other activities to exercise. He made arrangements with the YMCA and had regular sessions, starting with just a few kids that grew and grew. As the expansion started so did the activities and the need for transportation.

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He found a way to procure a school bus, and though tenacious work and donations, registered and insured it. He then involved at the Southeast Asian Coalition.

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Go, Boa, go!!

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Everyone loves and is so proud of Boa!

From their website their story is the following: The Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Inc. (SEAC) was founded in 1999 and established as a non-profit agency in 2001 to address the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate support services for Southeast Asian Immigrants in Central Massachusetts, which includes Laotians, Cambodians, and Vietnamese.

SEAC’s mission is to assist Southeast Asians in Central Massachusetts successfully integrate into mainstream society while maintaining their unique cultural identity. SEAC has developed a strong reputation both among members of our cultural community and with our partners in the community at large for being a trusted organization of first resort. Their mission is focused on education and job training.

The first Thanksgiving holiday party I attended was sparse, perhaps 25 to 30 kids. I made a turkey and all the fixings – this is back in 2009. In 2010 there were more kids and I was there as well, but now there was karate, judo, and other things being taught and the space was growing.

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Last year there were very young kids that were learning the Lion Dance; they had a demonstration and explained how every move tells a story.

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Those heads are heavy! Each eye can go left, right, up or down and blink!

So put the movements to a beating drum, and the magic of the dancing dragon comes alive!

Like Hula dancers with their hands and hips, all these Polynesian and Asian rituals are secretly threaded. Of course, Richard and I supplied the turkeys and again this year knowing there was to be a crowd, we made several turkeys, stuffing and a vast amount of turkey soup.

Boa was promoted to his new position, and having volunteered for years donating his own time and money. His new title is Cultural Broker, and he is working with people with mental and other physical disorders by linking and bridging communities. His focus is to transition folks to better life styles and connect to them to resources in the community so that each person feels completely normal and free of any labels due to their condition. He is a mighty man and a kindred spirit! Everyone he has helped has a smile on their face when you mention his name. The best part about Boa: he tries to make sure everyone is appeased and juggles to make it happen. And it does!

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RECIPE: CHEF JOEY’S HOLIDAY TURKEY STUFFING!

Here is a quick easy recipe for stuffing – you are going to love it!

All you need is:

2 large onions

1 bunch of celery

raisins

cranberries

oatmeal

Bell’s seasoning tops it off.

It is a delicious and healthy and gluten free!

First, chop the onions and sautee in olive oil

Add the celery and stir until soft.

Add ½ cup raisins and 1 cup fresh cranberries and stir in 2 tablespoons of Bells seasoning.

In the meantime, cook 3 cups of oatmeal.

Add to the onion mix and stir.

Salt and pepper to taste and there you have it!😄

One thing my donkeys won’t be doing this Christmas

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Cece + Lilac = best buds! pics:R.T.

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Cece washing Lilac

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Cece and Rose. … Miss Cece!!!!!!

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By Amy Skylark Elizabeth

I just watched the recent video “allegedly” (as the news reports put it) showing a man who was beating the living hell out of a camel in a live Nativity scene, and I’m bristling with anger. “Those poor camels have been smacked, kicked, choked by being pulled to the ground every time they try and stand up. My kids and I are absolutely heartbroken seeing them treat the camels this way. We didn’t even get the worst part recorded,” wrote the person who posted the now-viral video.

The display in question — which takes place annually at a medical center in Kentucky — has been canceled this year in light of this disturbing incident, but the facility claims that it has been renting animals from the same company for more than 20 years.

It’s chilling to watch YouTube videos of the center’s Nativity scenes in prior years and see the sheep, camels and donkeys used as props. As someone who has two donkeys who were rescued from abusive situations, I can only hope that all these animals weren’t also “allegedly” smacked, kicked and choked.

One thing that isn’t “alleged” is that animals used in Nativity displays are magnets for abuse. In 2014, a little donkey was crushed to death after a large man climbed into his pen and sat on his back to pose for pictures. He slowly died from injuries, which were likened to being “burst inside.” Other incidents include the barbaric beating of a donkey by three men in Virginia and the arrest of a West Virginia man who was caught sexually molesting a sheep used in a Nativity scene.

Some animals, frightened and confused, have broken away from displays. Anyone who has ever been around donkeys knows that they view dogs as predators. Even after two years, my miniature donkey Sam still becomes fearful and agitated when he sees my seven-pound Chihuahua. So it came as no surprise when I read about an incident involving a Nativity display in Richmond, Virginia, in which dogs attacked and mauled two sheep, causing a terrified donkey to bolt into the street, where he was struck by a car. All three animals had to be euthanized. A camel named Ernie was also hit and killed by a car when he escaped from a Maryland churchyard.

Even if they aren’t hurt or killed, animals used in seasonal displays often live in a perpetual state of discomfort and stress. Like all donkeys, my Luna is naturally cautious and doesn’t like sudden movements or loud noises. Yet donkeys and other animals are carted from one event to the next and subjected to a constant barrage of unfamiliar noises, camera flashes and activity while strangers try to touch them. Donkeys also have a hard time seeing things directly in front of their noses, so the sudden thrust of a hand at their muzzle or between their ears can easily frighten them, causing them to bite or kick

There are also other dangers lurking in the manger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that such displays put the public’s health at risk— and children are the most vulnerable to diseases including anthrax, salmonella, rabies, E. coli and ringworm. Infections are spread through direct contact with animals or even by simply touching the area surrounding an exhibit.

It doesn’t take a wise man or woman to see how quickly a season steeped in magic can turn tragic when live Nativity scenes are involved. I would never consider subjecting Sam or Luna to such a cruel spectacle.

And after watching this haunting video of Christmas present, I hope kind people will join me in refusing to patronize live-animal Nativity displays so that they can be relegated to Christmas past—where they belong.

This Christmas give the joy of play!

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Every child has the right to joyful play!

By Casey Zink, Horizons for Homeless Children

The homeless shelter system in Massachusetts is primarily designed for adults, with staff focused on helping residents reach self-sufficiency. Often there is less bandwidth to support the extensive needs of children experiencing homelessness. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, frequent creative play is integral to developing executive functioning skills in young children.

Horizons for Homeless Children’s Playspace Program, started in 1990, embodies our belief that every child has the right to joyful play experiences.
Playspaces are child-friendly rooms that Horizons has installed in more than 120 partner shelters across the state of Massachusetts. There are 12 shelter partners in Worcester, and 19 shelter partners in Central MA. Playspaces are designed – and play resources are carefully selected – to reflect the needs of children ages 0-6 experiencing trauma. Horizons’ Playspaces are created to give children a dedicated place to play and grow, and build connections with other caring adults who are committed to their success.

Our volunteers or Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) are the heart of the Playspace Program. Our 1,200 PALs attend weekly shifts in Playspaces across the state and bring the joy of play to thousands of children. We currently offer 340 Playspace shifts a week—which is 680 hours of play each week for the children residing in shelters. Playspace not only gives children time to play; it also gives their parents time to take classes, pursue permanent housing opportunities, or spend much needed time on self-care.

This holiday season, we’re asking you to help support the Central MA Playspace Program. Volunteering as a PAL is a wonderful way to make a difference in the lives of young children experiencing homelessness in your community. We’re also in need of donations; we accept both financial gifts and items from our wish list. We have a specific wish list of items we are in great need of that has been created around the needs of the children we serve. Your donations help support Horizon’s Playspace Program.

To learn more about volunteering, visit us online at www.horizonschildren.org.

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An interview with Mary S., a PAL from the Central Region who recently celebrated 20 years volunteering with Horizons:

Why did you start with Horizons?

When I first heard the commercial for Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) for Horizons for Homeless Children on the radio, I felt a tug in my heart. It is hard to imagine a person without a home, especially a child. It was at that moment that I knew Horizons was going to become a part of my weekly routine. It became such a natural part of my routine and 19 years later, the 6 months felt like 6 minutes and the 19 years feels like 19 hours but the number of children and families that touched my heart are countless.

What do you enjoy most about being a PAL?

When I arrive at the shelter programs, I am greeted by smiles, hugs, and loud voices announcing the “Volunteers Are Here”! In addition, over the years I had the opportunity to volunteer with many PALS and work closely with shelter and Horizons’ staff, where everlasting friendships and memories were formed.
Why would you recommend being a PAL?
The gift of time of only 2 hours a week is priceless to young children and their families. Too often people feel that homelessness is too big to conquer, but I have learned that we can all make a difference in our own way. I really enjoy being a PAL and I cannot imagine a weekly routine without it!

Are there any specific stories that stick out in your memory?

When I think of being a PAL, I carry around images of sticky fingers, paint-stained clothing, dress-up play, crazy dance contests, and the time when a room full of crying, tired children, switched to laughter when I decided to sing a loud rendition of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”. There were many children who did not separate from their moms and after several weeks of having fun, they would join the children who did not want us to leave!

What impact has volunteering at Horizons had on your life?

I became a PAL because I truly believed that by spending time with a child I could make a difference — even if it was only for two hours a week. What I did not realize 19 years ago was how much it would change my own life. Each family comes to the shelter with their own challenging stories leaving family, friends, and personal belongings behind – looking for a better life. I have been inspired by the great courage, determination and strength evident in many of the parents to create something better for their families.

What one piece of advice would you give to a new PAL?

Have fun! Follow the lead of the children. If it is challenging to engage a child in a task, start playing, dancing or singing and they will eventually join in! Don’t hesitate to ask for help since, due to their unique experiences, they may exhibit some extreme emotions. The staff is always there to help!

Is there anything else about your experience that you’d like to share?

My pay is the peace I feel in my heart when I leave each week – and the satisfaction that the little bit of kindness we bring to the shelters can actually take someone who is overwhelmed and restore their sense of hope.

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Inspired to get involved with Horizons?

There are many way to give back this holiday season – and beyond!

DONATE!
We have a wish list for our regional Playspaces, and are in desperate need of certain supplies. To get a full list, please email central@horizonschildren.org.

VOLUNTEER!
We also have three upcoming PAL trainings in Central MA:
Leominster : Thursday 1/19, 6-9pm
Worcester : Saturday 2/4, 10-1pm
Framingham: Wednesday 3/8, 6-9pm

Apply to be a PAL online by registering for training, please visit www.horizonschildren.org/PALapplication.

Central Mass Kibble Kitchen – always in style!

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Dorrie!🐕🐺🐶🐵🎄🎁🎄🎁

Central Mass Kibble Kitchen:
Helping Feed Fido during Hard Times

By Dorrie Maynard

“Who feeds a hungry ­animal, feeds his own soul.”
– Charlie Chaplin

Many families in Central Massachusetts are struggling to maintain a stable household, be it due to a tough economy, domestic abuse, health conditions, substance addiction, or other unplanned life circumstances. The pets of these families are often on the short end of the sacrifices these families must make; stressing an already strained shelter system, and leaving an emotional hole in a family in need of stability. Other families opt to keep their pets, living with them in their cars or tents, or perhaps camping out on a friend’s sofa, while they struggle to find permanent housing.

Seeing this problem and no available solutions, Kim O’Konis established the Central Mass Kibble Kitchen in January of 2015.

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Kim, CMKK’s fearless leader! photos by Dorrie Maynard

“No one should have to make the decision to turn their pet over to a shelter because of temporary hardship. These are the times families need the comfort of a pet the most. My goal was to help take the burden from the families and keep pets in their homes,” she says.

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Food for your babies can be picked up at the MUSTARD SEED, in Piedmont.

In just less than two years, with the help of donations from individuals and pet supply companies, CMKK has distributed more than 400,000 pounds of pet food through live site distributions, home deliveries and food pantry deliveries! The organization has also been able to supply donated collars, leashes, coats, litter, and other supplies to hundreds of families and their pets. Through partnerships with local veterinary organizations, hundreds more pets have been spayed, neutered, or received life-saving medical treatment at reduced or no cost to owners.

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Meow!

Still more pets have been helped with temporary fostering while their owners sought addiction treatment, were hospitalized, or dealt with homelessness.

Operating out of the basement of her home, O’Konis then expanded her operation into a rented space attached to the Worcester Animal Rescue League. A small army of volunteers has formed to help transport, bag, and distribute food and supplies. Despite the network of organizations and volunteer support, she still personally distributes food and supplies from her van each week at the Mustard Seed and St John’s soup kitchens each week. “It’s all about building relationships. My clients trust me and know that I too care about their pet(s), that they can depend on me to be there every week, always offering pet food and sometimes a shoulder to lean on. Having personal contact with families and their pets means everything to me. It motivates me to continue doing everything I can to help them and their pets stay together,” she says.

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Cherish your pets!

As word of the Central Mass Kibble Kitchen’s has spread through the local community and with the cold weather, demand has grown.

Kibble Kitchen needs:

canned cat and dog food

dry cat food

Donations can be dropped off at at 139 Holden Street – the Worcester Animal Rescue League. In the3rd garage bay.

Arrangements for pickup of large donations can be made by calling 978-496-9364.

Monetary donations are extremely helpful, and can be made securely via Youcaring.com.

More information is at centralmakibblekitchen.org, or on their Facebook page.

CMKK is 501-c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible.

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This Sunday! Friendly House Annual Christmas Party!!!

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Friendly House Annual Christmas Party!

36 Wall St.

This Sunday, December 18

2 pm – 4 pm

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For children ages 0-12 – must be accompanied by an adult

Raffles!

Gifts for all children ages 0-12 in attendance!

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Music!

Dance performances!

Entertainment!

First come, first served!

Volunteers, gifts for tweens still needed … if you can help in any way! Cheers, inner-city Woo!

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THANK YOU, GORDON AND SANTA!!! You’re the best!!😄😄😊☺😁😃🎄🎅💝

*******

JOBS NOT JAILS RALLY, FRIENDLY HOUSE CHRISTMAS PARTY, MLK Jr. Breakfast …

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E.P.O.C.A PRESENTS JOBS NOT JAILS RALLY 2016

STEERING COMMITEE FOR JOBS NOT JAILS INVITES YOU!

JOIN US TO HEAR THE AGENDA AND TO TAKE ACTION!

How can we work to end:

mandatory minimum sentences

unfair probation fees …

and other injustices in the court system and more

TOMORROW! Tuesday, December 13

10 am – 11:30 am

Boston Society of the New Jeruslem

140 Bowdoin St. Boston, MA 02108

We hope to see you there!

Questions?

Email Cassandra Bensahih at: cassandrab@epocainc.org


Mark your calendars!

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Friendly House Annual Christmas Party!

Wall Street

Sunday, December 18

2 pm – 4 pm

Children ages 0-12, must be accompanied by an adult

Raffles, Gifts for all Children ages 0-12 in attendance

Music!

Dance performances!

Entertainment!

First come, first served!

P.S. Toys, volunteers always needed this time of the year!

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Join the movement!

Sometimes first aid isn’t a bandage, or CPR, or calling 911.

Sometimes first aid is YOU.

A young person you know may be experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem.

Learn an action plan to help!

This free course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents …

… including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders and substance abuse disorder.

Participants do not learn to diagnose or how to provide any therapy or counseling – rather, participants learn to identify and support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness … Learn the core 5-step action plan.

Places and Times:

First Congregational Church, Shrewsbury

January 25, February 1 and February 8

7 pm – 9:30 pm

St Andrews Episcopal Church, Grafton

January 10 and January 11

9:30 am – 1:30 pm

St. Bernadette School Pastoral Center, Northboro

January 12 and January 19

10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Register at syfs-ma.org or contact Christine Mowry at cmowrysyfs@gmail.com

Chef Joey – always in style! … Home for the Holidays … to make Gingerbread

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Text and photos by Chef Joey

Home for the Holidays – that seems to sum up what everyone wants, or thinks is the best, or so the song says.

But what exactly is “home”?

According to Webster’s Dictionary it is a “domicile” “House” “workplace” and even a “Habitat,” say where fish return home to spawn. Even they have a favorite spot!

Where ever it may be, home is a place of grounding, whether it be an apartment, a house, rented space or even a nursing home. One needs to have a place of one’s own. Nothing is more important than that, especially during the holidays.

This is one of those holidays that reaches into the depths of our memories, the Santa Claus watching us all year, the Elf on the Shelf scampering around to new hiding places. All this cerebral fun, combined with transferring the “Home” into an ornament filled room, awash with lights and color. And there has to be some heirloom decoration that comes out just for this time period.

Holiday trees are plentiful on many corners, having grown for the last 10 or so years to be cut, transported, marketed and sold for $15 to those who dare take the chance it will last the Holiday. Others prefer the safe “fake” tree …

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… that stands just as majestically as a real one, but does come back year to year and eventually becomes an heirloom itself. …

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On a brief note, because of space constraints, Europeans generally decorate a fir branch in their homes to celebrate the solstice, when fermented beverages from the summer were ready to consume and animals were slaughtered and stored for winter meals. Three tops were used to save the rest of the tree. Early decorations were edible items as well – dried apples, cookies etc.

My European grandmother would place a branch on the mantle in the dining room and decorate it with a few ribbons, and a candle ended up there. Simple and yet elegant.

The common thread for all these definitions is, of course food. Even the fishes have to eat! We, however, have cheese dips, even cheese Christmas trees! …

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… cookies …

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… cakes and favorite meals …

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Gift swapping, too. People in homes run by caretakers have the advantage of enjoying continual celebrations. Work places always have some kind of holiday party and private residences are always cozy. Christmas recipes tend to indulge more the sugary side. Confections seem to go very well with this holiday.

Cookies go back to the Middle Ages when spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg made their appearances. Cinnamon cakes, nutmeg beverages and various ginger cookies and cakes started appearing.

Ginger and Gingerbread Men and Gingerbread Houses

Surprisingly, most gingerbread items have changed very little since then, right down to the molasses that was cheaper than sugar. The birth of the “Gingerbread Man” was for Queen Elizabeth the 1st, who had the cookies made for her favorite advisors. Giving a cookie became the thing to do because in medieval times it was hard for working people to procure dried fruits and nuts, and when they did it was for an important event like Christmas. So the making of cakes and puddings would be the priority and hard to share. So using your butter and lard to make a batch of cookies or cakes was less expensive, therefore people would share a “cookie” or a cake with friends and neighbors during the holiday season.

Now we have gift cards.

One time I painstakingly made a Gingerbread House for the holidays, as my parents were coming to the states from France to visit me. They came into my house directly from the airport. I showed them my Gingerbread House, all proud – it was complete with frosted shingles and gumdrops!

My mom said, “Oh how pretty” and ripped a corner off the roof and ate it.

When I protested, she said, “It’s ginger bread – use cardboard if you don’t want people to eat it. You make cakes and cut them. What’s the difference?”

Good point. I got over it.

Germany had a lot to do with confections, but mainly breads. The French had cakes. This being New “England,” we have Christmas puddings and English-like holiday treats. Of course, immigration has brought holiday traditions for families to America, and no shocker, they all involve food!

Whatever your tradition, I hope you enjoy it in a happy, healthy way and celebrate with others if you can – it makes for a nice time. Our common thread? We are all still kids at heart!

Gingerbread

Here is a gingerbread recipe that is quick, easy and tasty. It takes less than one hour to make and can be served warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

2 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp nutmeg *you can use allspice

2 tsp for cinnamon cloves and nutmeg blend

½ cup melted butter

¾ cup molasses

¼ cup water

1 egg

1 cup whole milk or buttermilk for thicker bread

Heat oven to 350 – grease a 9 x 9 pan or cup cake liners (6).

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the butter and molasses to a bowl and sift in the dry ingredients (everything up to the butter from the top).

Stir, adding water.

Mix the egg and milk together, add to your batter, mix well and pour into the pan or tins.

Bake 30 minutes or so for cake and 15 to 18 minutes for cupcakes.

Test with a toothpick for doneness.

Remove from the oven – let stand – turn the cake out on a cooking rack, cut into pieces and serve!

Enjoy!

Such cute holiday decor at Unique Finds!

I visited Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop, 1329 Main St., today. They had such adorable holiday stuff on display. All for a fa la la la la!

They’re open 7 days a week!

’til 7 p.m.

BEST PRICES IN TOWN!

pics: R.T.

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Cece!!! What are you doing here??!

Unique finds at Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop! …

… located at 1329 Main St., Worcester … (Webster Square area – at the corner of Main and Henshaw streets)

OPEN TODAY – MONDAY! – and TUESDAY! …

and every day until 7 p.m.

Shop here early for your holiday finds! – pics:R.T.

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Rosalie, last week …Unique Finds also sells tee shirts, jackets, coats and boots …(not this tee, though)

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