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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
Thanksgiving 2021 is almost here and we do have much for which to be thankful even with all the stresses of the year. Some of us are traveling again, which in itself is exciting especially with all the Christmas festivals in the offing. We spent over twenty years beginning the season with a weekend trip to the St. Charles, Missouri Christmas Traditions festival which again begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve. (Nov. 26- Dec. 24). After we in Charleston began our Christmas festival Hubby and I would postpone our trip to St Charles until the following weekend.

We began our St Charles trip the year after I retired and I had been missing the hubbub of the season. It was strange to not be working at the busiest time of year and I almost did not know how to act: shopping instead of selling. We had visited the small town outside of St Louis in the summer months and had found the historic area quite interesting but seeing the extravaganza they affected at Christmas was really a treat. The wonderfully preserved historic buildings just screamed “decorate me” and decorate they did. Fresh evergreen garland and red velvet bows grace all the lamp posts and most of the exterior buildings for the almost two mile shopping district. Most days during the month one can enjoy horse and carriage rides and listen to strolling carolers. The sights, sounds and smells of the season are everywhere. After you have attended your local Christmas festivals I highly recommend a trip to St Charles, Missouri for a nostalgic trip back in time.

I was just talking to my Mom and she told me that she also enjoyed the day after Thanksgiving when she worked at the Woolworth in Taylorville in the 1940’s. It was her job to decorate the fake Christmas trees with silver tinsel in between serving her customers at the China Counter. I have a vivid picture of that Woolworth, as mentioned in a previous column, and I can picture my Mom dusting china and hanging tinsel. Mom had a thing about tinsel, she was a precise hanger, one did not rush the job,. Mom would stand for hours hanging each piece of tinsel and she has carried that tradition to this day. I, on the other hand, do not care for tinsel most likely because as a kid my Mom frustrated me with her persistence of  hanging each little piece of sparkling silver; I would get upset and throw a handful on the tree and declare it was done.

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season it was also a tradition at the Woolworth for the cook to make apple dumplings to serve at the lunch counter and one year they had a contest amongst the employees. Before the store opened, the cook gave all the employees an apple peeler and whoever could peel the apple and maintain the longest apple peel won a free apple dumpling. My Mom was the winner, which really pleased her and for the rest of her life she would demonstrate her ability to peel an apple with one continuous peel. For years I tried to execute this culinary feat and I only succeeded one time. I kept that peel in a plastic bag and took it over to my Mom just to show her I “did it”, finally!

Mom and Daddy started their own Thanksgiving week tradition after Daddy retired from work; they went to Hawaii for five years in a row and even took our son with them twice. The first time they went was actually over Thanksgiving Day and after not being able to find a traditional Thanksgiving dinner they changed their trip to the week after Thanksgiving. Mom said she did not like banana leaf wrapped turkey and she thought the “Poi” would have been better if they had used a little sage. Hubby and I got a giggle out of her Poi statement.

Sometime in the 1970s Daddy took Mom and I to Chicago for Thanksgiving weekend. Hubby had to work and our son was going to spend the weekend with his other Grandparents so Daddy decided to treat us by showing us his beloved Chicago; he had lived there a couple years in his youth. We stayed at the “Drake” Hotel and spent hours walking up and down Michigan Avenue and State Street looking at all the beautiful window decorations. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the Drake and it was delicious, I have never tasted such delicious turkey, dressing and gravy; it was spiced differently than Mom’s home cooking but I loved it! That year my Dad spent $1.00 each for three pumpkin truffles,  at a chocolate shop on Michigan Avenue and Mom thought he had lost his mind. Oh, the memories!

Here are a couple really good websites which list many of the area Christmas festivals and I have listed the 2021 dates of the ones that Hubby and I liked to attend.

2021 Tuscola Christmastown Celebration
December 3, 2021 – December 5, 2021
The Douglas County Christmas Craft Fair is the largest event of its type to occur in Douglas County each year. It is the largest and most popular Christmas Fair in Southern Oregon. Over 300 crafter booths, displaying a wide variety of handcrafted items, such as clothing, home decor, baked goods, spices, lotions, soaps, wood crafts, metal sculptures, art decor, and numerous other unique products. December 3-5, 2021.

Christmas in the Heart of Charleston is a free family-friendly community event! Santa’s set up in City Hall taking wishes from boys and girls, chestnuts roasting over an open fire, free carriage rides take families around the square, and free performances and snacks abound! This year’s Christmas in the Heart of Charleston takes place on the first Saturday in December, from 4:45 – 7:00 p.m. on the square, kicking off with a holiday parade at 4:45 p.m.!

Allerton Holiday Showcase will be held on December 3-5, 2021. Come out and do your holiday shopping. There will be local vendors, food trucks and a cash bar. Hours: Fri 5 p.m. –  9 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. – 5p.m., Sun 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Springfield, Il-FSMB Holiday Bazaar will be held December 5, 2021. Come over to shop a variety of boutique, art, jewelry, photography, lotions, soaps, coins, home and garden decor, toys, sewn items, handmade, crochet, recycled, vintage, antique, upcycled, collectibles, floral, furniture, wood, produce, metal, and more. Listen to great music and enjoy delicious mimosas, sausages, dips, and sweet treats. Hours: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Springfield Craft and Vendor Event will be held on December 10-12, 2021. This event will include a variety of crafters, small businesses, direct sales vendors, food, and entertainment. Hours: Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Urbana Craft and Vendor Show will be held on December 12, 2021. Come shop, make new friends and support local small businesses in the Champaign County Area. Hours: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Arthur Winter Market Bazaar will be held on December 18, 2021. There will be over 60 vendors selling antiques, collectibles, repurposed items, handmade items, bath products, crafts, pet supplies, boutique, furniture, direct sales items, and much more. Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. :

Food has always been a big part of our holiday trips and some of our favorites were fried spice donuts in Nashville, Indiana, cherry pie in Upper Michigan, Mississippi mudslide brownies in St Charles, Missouri and Pumpkin Gâteau Basque, which we had in Vancouver, Cacada. ” Gâteau Basque originated in the Basque region of France. It is made with a tender cookie crust, and is traditionally filled with vanilla pastry cream. This version is filled with pumpkin pastry cream, perfect for Thanksgiving. It is both like a pie and a cake.” — Betty Hung, Beaucoup Bakery”

I searched for a long time to find the recipe and I will share it with you. It looks like a cheesecake but is nothing like it and the “basque” melts in your mouth. I have made this in place of pumpkin pie and it met with rave reviews from the family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Gâteau Basque
* 10 tbsp (150 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature

* Half vanilla bean, seeds 

scraped or 1 tsp (15 mL) vanilla extract

* ½ cup + 1 tbsp (140 mL) granulated sugar

* ¾ cup + 2 tbsp (210 mL) almond flour

* 1 egg yolk + 1 large egg

* 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour

* ½ tsp (2.5 mL) salt

Pumpkin pastry cream:
* 2 tbsp (30 mL) brown sugar, divided

* ½ cup (125 mL) pumpkin purée (canned)

* ¾ cup (180 mL) whipping cream

* 2 egg yolks

* 1 tsp (5 mL) salt

* 3 tbsp (45 mL) cornstarch

* ½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground ginger

* ½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon

* 1 tsp (5 mL) ground nutmeg

* 1/8 tsp (.5 mL) ground clove

* 1/8 tsp (.5 mL) ground allspice

1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter

Egg wash
Whipped cream, if desired

In the bowl of a mixer, place butter, vanilla seeds or extract, sugar, and almond flour. Mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed just until incorporated. Refrain from incorporating too much air. Add the egg yolk and egg, mix until incorporated on medium speed, about 20 seconds. Add the flour and salt, mix on low speed for 20-30 seconds, just until there is no more dryness. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface and pat into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least two hours or preferably overnight.

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