We are serious non-traditionalists when it comes to the holiday season. Top Girl’s dad and I are divorced. My husband’s parents are divorced – his mother is deceased now, but wasn’t when we married. Obviously my step-son’s parents are divorced. Top Girl is married with a 3rd family to consider especially with Rocket being here now, Lawyer Boy is married to Minnie Mouse with a 3rd family to consider as well, and Wonder Boy – well, we never really know what’s going on with him!
When we married, Mr. Picky-eater started talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas in the summer and trying to explain the complicated and very intricate holiday schedule the boys followed. Sounded like a whole lot of pressure on two teenage boys that was unnecessary. Top Girl and I had been non-traditional for a long time and there was no way I was going back to a stressful, pressure-filled 2 month period where I was unable to make anyone within a 200-mile radius happy. So, about Labor Day weekend (first weekend in September) I sat husband and kids down and told them how it would be: Thanksgiving Day – lunch would be served at 11:30 AM and it would be a traditional meal with both mothers here. If they were here and out of bed, they could eat with us but if not – no big deal – come when and if you can, eat what you want and watch football. If you didn’t make it there would be no passive-aggressive remarks or guilty comments. Period. Christmas Eve, once again reserved for the mothers for church going, present opening, lasagna eating, and Christmas light viewing – with a peppermint malt of course. Christmas Day was reserved for Mr. Picky-eater and I alone to sleep late, eat cold lasagna, open our own presents and do nothing. Any day within two weeks of Christmas that all 3 kids could get here would be just fine and that holiday celebration would include: presents, take-out food only, and listening to what the kids have planned for the next year. No muss, no fuss, no arguments, and no debate – I laid down the law.
Husband was shocked and thrilled, Top Girl was non-plussed, and the boys and our (especially mine) mothers didn’t believe it. Nine years later, mother has finally accepted that her time is Christmas Eve – and the kids love our holidays so much, they want to be here all the time during the season. There’s too much pressure elsewhere. Not here!
I do make some very traditional dishes during the season and to do that, I need to make my nana’s vanilla as well as some of my own. It’s takes at least a month to make it so I generally start in mid-October in order to get it done on time but I have done it at last as November 23rd. I use spiced rum instead of vodka for both kinds of my vanilla extract. It’s just a preference but you may want to use vodka. We also like sweet heat so one of my bottles is going to be spicy vanilla. Remember back when it was “hip” to put chilies in dessert dishes? My dad was from New Mexico before it was even a state so sweet heat has been a part of our holiday celebrations my entire life. Dad taught me to not put the chilies in the dish, which can give it a texture that I don’t care for – instead – he showed me how to make spicy vanilla extract . This gave the dish a subtle taste of warm and spicy instead of jumping out and biting you each time you got a bit of chile in your bite. I have no idea if this is widely used or common or if we are the only ones on the face of the earth that do it, but it’s good to us so I thought I would share it with you.
Spicy Vanilla Extract
Wait till the hot jalapenos turn red on the vine and pick a pretty good sized one. You need to buy two nice plump vanilla beans. Split the beans and julienne the pepper like this:
I use an old hot sauce bottle that’s been put through the dishwasher and then put the pepper and bean in the bottle like this:
Using a funnel, pour the spiced rum (or vodka) into the bottle, 6-8 ounces, and give it a good shake so it will look like this:
For the next month I will store in a dark cool place and give it a shake daily. On or about December 23rd, I will strain the whole shebang through a cheese cloth, cleaning out the bottle once again and pour back into the bottle. I have always stored in the fridge. . By the New Year, it will be all gone and I’ll wait till next year to make some more. Tell me, what Holiday Traditions do you have?