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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
Tis the season!

My favorite time of year, everything is sparkling; gaudy is acceptable and over eating is suddenly ok! All my outside Christmas lights are strung and I briefly turned them all on to get the full effect of my efforts and was pleased with the look. This year I decided I would hang the lighted garland all around the front porch ceiling as I have done for years but did not do last year because I had just moved and was too tired to mess with it. As Christmas approached, last year, I missed the blue and green lights on the porch and vowed not to be so lazy this year. I like to display different color combinations each year but somehow have settled on blue and green lights with a touch of red and white.

I have not always decorated the outside with Christmas lights; it began quite by accident. One year, on the day of the coffee girls Christmas party, all the strands of lights went out on the garland in the dining room and there was no time to take the intricate garland down and restring the lights. After pondering the situation I decided to hang lights on the front porch and on the trees outside the dining room window since both could be seen from the dining room windows. From inside the house it looked like all the trees and shrubs in the garden were lighted which made for a stunning effect for the party. From then on I made it a point to decorate the garden and anything that could be seen from the dining room windows. When designing both of the houses we built I designed them with large dining room windows which looked out on the garden, just for Christmas lights.

I have experienced some real interesting situations with the lights on party nights. One year the fog was extremely thick and the humidity was so high that the lights would not stay on; I had them plugged into an outlet in the garage. I managed to have enough time to switch some of the wet cords and slip them through a window and plug them into an outlet inside the house. Another year a raccoon chewed the main cord and I was forced to change cords just minutes before my guests were to arrive. After the third year of wet cords and light problems I convinced Hubby that I needed a weatherproof outlet on the outside of the house. Since that time I have made sure to have outside outlets installed.

My friend Gale is lucky enough to have an electrician Hubby and he had installed a light switch in their house so they did not have to go outside to turn on the lights. Once again I implemented this wonderful extravagance in the houses we built. My current house is wired a bit differently so after I moved in I asked Bill, Gales Hubby, to add two new electric lines to the house, one in front and one in the back but there was no way to wire an inside light switch so I have them on remotes. I am amazed that the remote signal is strong enough to go through walls and windows.

It is a good thing I have a hoarder’s stock of cords and lights because there seems to be a shortage of lights this year. A couple store managers have told me their shipments are backlogged and not to expect much more this year. Not to worry, I have enough lights and cords to light up the whole neighborhood. I am having trouble finding C7 replacement lights so I guess I will have to shop Amazon to find them. I still string the Christmas tree with the old fashioned C7 lights but I use mini lights everywhere else. I have not made the switch to LED; I do not like the glow they produce.

I love taking drives at night to see all the decorated houses in town and we can’t forget the annual area Christmas light shows. A Champaign web site has a listing of Central illinois light shows ( and here are a couple close ones in our area:

Effingham Wonderland in Lights
What: Drive through Community Park in Effingham for a magical display that lights up beginning Thanksgiving night. Look for reindeer flight school, a nativity scene and more.
When: Thanksgiving night through Jan. 2, 5-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Community Park in Effingham. 
Mattoon Lightworks
What: Drive through Mattoon’s beautiful Peterson Park to see a vast array of standard and animated holiday light displays. In recent years, new displays and LED lights have been added.
When: Open Nov. 19-Dec. 28; hours coming soon.
Where: Peterson Park, Mattoon.
Shelbyville Festival of Lights
What: The display includes more than 500 lighted scenes with several lighted arches. Includes traditional displays like manger scenes and Santa with his reindeer, and some not-so-traditional such as a large lighted Menorah, and Santa riding a motorcycle.
When: Open Nov. 19 through Jan. 1; 5-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Forest Park, Shelbyville. 

Are you still wondering what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers? I generally freeze everything and use it a couple weeks later but one year I had too much sage dressing leftover and came up with a delicious idea. I mixed the sage dressing with the left over mashed potatoes, added an egg and more herbs. I then formed them into patties and fried them like potato cakes. Hubby loved this idea because he did not care for the soft texture of the stuffing when baked inside of the turkey. 

Another time I made a batch of potato soup and mashed some of the stuffing and blended it into the soup. That was also a success and I have done this many times. Hubby did not care for what he liked to call “day old” turkey so another year I made homemade sausage patties with fresh pork sausage and added ground leftover turkey. Hubby liked the sausage idea so we have made this many times over the years.

My all time favorite leftover Thanksgiving dinner recipe is turkey hash. I chop up the turkey, add a peeled and chopped potato, the dressing (diced) and add Thyme and Oregano to change the taste just a little. The next step is to sauté it in a little butter or olive oil, until I realize the hash consistency. If there is any leftover gravy I will add it to the pan and simmer for a few minutes. We like to eat this turkey hash over Texas toast and Hubby would add garlic butter to his toast.

Enjoy the season!

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