Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Hemingway Family Rituals

Until contemplating the topic for this round of posts, I had not necessarily thought of our family Christmas rituals as traditions, but I like the word "tradition" and from now on, that's the way I'll think of them.

Each year we (just my husband and I now that our children are grown) go out to cut our own Christmas tree, and for the last 15 years or more we've gone to the same small tree farm in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, not far from the presidential Camp David. Some years the selection is better than others, but I inevitably lose my sense of "room size" when out in the woods and we come home with a tree so large it's difficult to carry inside, set up in a tree stand, and then decorate, even with a ladder. Fortunately our log cabin has a vaulted ceiling and open beams, but my husband's back can no longer tolerate these oversized trees. Now I am held to a 10 to 12 foot limit.

Another tradition began with our son's first Christmas (when he was just one week old)--the gift of a Christmas tree ornament for each child's stocking in keeping with their personalities and interests. By the time our children left home and started their own families, they had quite an assorted collection of ornaments to take with them. Now we continue the same tradition by choosing special ornaments for each of our grandchildren's stockings.

And finally another tradition--baking. I do bake some Christmas cookies, but the older I get, the less patience I have for decorating them and the more I try to avoid consuming them. However, I do love baking bread, especially our old family recipe for shredded wheat and molasses bread. I start several days before Christmas and try to deliver to special friends and neighbors while the loaves are still hot from the oven. Of course I do save a few loaves for our own family. Feel free to enjoy the recipe below:

Shredded Wheat and Molasses Bread

3 shredded wheat biscuits (the large ones)
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
2 TBSP oil
2 tsp salt
1 pkg. dry yeast, soaked in 1/2 cup tepid water
Around 10 cups of flour (enough to make a good dough)

Pour boiling water over broken wheat biscuits; when cool, add yeast which has been soaked in 1/2 cup warm water in meantime. Add molasses, oil, salt. Mix in enough flour to make a good dough; knead, let rise in greased bowl until double in size (about 2 hours). Then punch down and knead again, divide in two and place in greased loaf pans to rise for about 1 hour more. Cover lightly with a towel while rising both times. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes; then reduce to 350 degrees for about 45 minutes more. Makes 3 medium or 2 large loaves.

Enjoy warm from the oven, toasted, or for sandwiches!


Flan de Coco


1/4 cup of dark Karo syrup

1 can (14 oz) coconut milk

1 can (14 oz) evaporated milk

1 can (14 oz) condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the Karo syrup into a 1 quart, ovenproof, round mold. Roll the mold to coat the sides with the syrup.

In a blender, mix in the three milks, vanilla, and eggs.

Add water to a larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the mold.

Place the mold with the custard on the pan with water, as in a double boiler.

Bake for 1 hour or until the knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Unmold the flan onto a deep platter.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


I'll Buy a Vowel

Ten years ago I made a conscious decision to start a new Christmas tradition with my family. While some relatives are asked to bring fruit salad or wine to dinner, I'm always asked to bring the games. Ten years ago I decided to make a large scale Wheel of Fortune game, and we've been playing it every Christmas since.

The game consists of a three-foot wheel, a large puzzle board, and of course "valuable prizes" to be won (lottery tickets and gift certificates). I get to play the parts of both Pat and Vanna. It's a great way to pass the time while waiting for dinner, and it's something we all look forward to doing together. It also proves that you can start a holiday tradition whenever you want.


and the seasons, they go round and round

Part of the pleasure of tradition is experiencing the renewed hope cycles bring. I celebrate by creating calendars. I started years ago using handset letterpress type accompanied by single color linoleum cuts. I got a little fancy and added rainbow rolls for my linocuts. Eventually I began printing from my computer—sometimes black and white, sometimes full color on my snazzy Epson. This year my calendar features scenic details from my book The East-West House. I've created different versions in varied sizes. My mini-ones fit in a business envelope and will also serve as promo.

SPUDS, send me your address at christy@christyhale.com and I'll mail you a mini!


Tastes of the Season

Every year I bake about 20 kinds of treats and pack them in boxes to give away to friends and neighbors. ( I only left out family because we don't have any family within 1,000 miles of where we are.) This is a box from last year, but I plan to start this year's baking today. And with the college kid coming home on Thursday, I am really starting to get in the Christmas mood. Here is one of my favorite recipes:

Candy Bar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 t. vanilla

3 cups flour

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

60 mini Snicker bars

In large bowl, mix butter, sugar, and peanut butter until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix flour, baking powder, and soda, then add to peanut butter mixture. Mix well. For each cookie, take a tablespoon of dough and wrap around a Snickers, completely covering it and forming a ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Drizzle with glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2T. cocoa powder

Add 1 T of milk, then add additional milk 1t. at a time until drizzling consistency.

Makes 60 cookies.