Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Daddy's Buckeyes

Every family has some sort of tradition when it comes to Christmas. My family is no different. Oh sure we do things a little, well, we call it "Spranger Style" but, it is tradition. Let me explain. In my mom's family the Christmas theme is decided at Thanksgiving. Yes, the theme. The food and/or attire is discussed by the family over dinner, then the planning begins. With 8 kids in my mom's family, there are a lot of unique ideas and interpretations of themes. Factor in that they are all married and well, let's just say we get a lot of entertainment around the holidays.

Here's a photo from a few years ago. Your attire and gift had to reflect the 1980's. You like my sweet leg warmers? ;) They were very sparkly! I am sure I entertained the gas station attendant in down town St. Paul in my cool outfit.

Other themes have included(this is a very limited list):

"Made in Hong Kong" This was right before Hong Kong returned to China's rule. Your gift had to be made in Hong Kong.

"Spring(er) Christmas" This was left open to interpretation for a variety of costumes such as wearing Slinkys, tissue paper flowers, and one larger than life flower complete with plastic ants climbing up the stalk. The plastic ants were very entertaining because my dad and brother collected them all night long. For years after the party, Grandma Spranger would find these ants for months after our visits. My dad took great pleasure in leaving these tiny, black, plastic ants in the oddest places such as in the glass domes of ceiling lights, in stemware in the china hutch, and on top of canning jars in cellar. She collected them all in a little jar and gave them to me a while back. I still have them, I giggle every time I see them. My mom was a giant bumble bee that year. Have you ever tried to find a human sized stinger!? Floral styro foam and black fabric make a great improvised stinger, in case you ever need to put together a bee costume...

There was the "J" Christmas. All the food had to begin with a "j". Some of the many dishes included- jicama, julienned potatoes, cherries jubilee(I believe we called it jubilee cherries to make it fit the theme), juicy fruit, I made what we call "j" potatoes.I took a cookie cutter, shaped it into a j shape and use it to cut out potatoes and bake them. Interestingly enough, no one brought jello. I guess it was too obvious...The main meat was jamón, Spanish for ham.

There was "Make your own gift"- this one is pretty self explanatory...

My favorite year by far was dress as your gift. The goal was to dress as the hint to your gift. My uncle Pete dressed as the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. I believe his gift was cookies and kitchen gadgets... My mom was dressed as Jeanie from I Dream of Jeanie. Her gift was a set of cocoa and mugs from Cocoa Beach (where Jeanies bottle was). My aunt Susan dressed as a woman in the wind, her dress was starched and pulled back, her hair was pulled back around chicken wire so it appeared she was being blown by a very stiff wind. Her gift was wind chimes. I brought cheese as an appetizer so I dressed like a wedge of swiss cheese. Markers, flexible wire, and poster board make a really great costume.

We had a Christmas where we gave back. Each person donated time or funds to a worthy cause. We did a presentation to the family on what we did. It was interesting to see what each family chose. Some donated money for school supplies for underprivileged children, some sponsored families so they could eat, and others volunteered time at the food shelf.

Another tradition? White Elephant Bingo. Yep, our family is large enough we can play competitive bingo. The prizes are all re-gifts: things from around your house only. Love it :)

Moving on to Zimmerli Christmas-

Christmas on the Zim side is more traditional. We eat a big meal, wash the dishes, and gather around the living room. Then someone reads the story of Christ's birth from the Bible out loud. Then we open gifts one a time. It's all very intimate and warm. I get all sorts of snuggly happy feelings when I think about it. There is much laughter and love at these gatherings.

Two very different ways to celebrate Christ's birth. But they blend beautifully. I wouldn't want it any other way.

When I was a kid, we left cookies and milk out for Santa. We also left celery or carrots for his reindeer.

Each year we'd drive around town looking at Christmas lights as a family on Christmas Eve.

Before we left Mom or Dad would forget something in the house-Mom had to go potty, Dad forgot to turn the lights off in the office, Mom left her purse on the table. Then we'd go for our drive.

When we got home the treats were gone and the gifts "magically" appeared under the tree. We didn't figure out how this elaborate plan worked until we were a little older. We could open one gift Christmas Eve. The rest had to wait until Christmas day after breakfast, and after Dad read from the Bible about Jesus's birth. A very important tradition and reminder of why we have Christmas in the first place.

Jon and I have combined our family traditions into something like this: The tree gets decorated together as a family(my family) while watching A Christmas Story (Jon and Becca tradition). Each year we get one new ornament (my family, and Jon's family in more recent years). Stockings get mixed nuts (my family) and a small gift with special wrapping that is used only for stocking stuffers (Jon's family). We open one gift on Christmas Eve. (Both our families do this) We eat breakfast and read the Christmas story(my family) before we open gifts alternating between him and I opening gifts.

This year will be different for us because in the past we've gone to Jon's grandma's on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day we go to my Grandparents, then his Mom's place. Since we moved to Georgia, this year we are going to be spending Christmas with my brother/sister-in-law and my parents. We are happy to be celebrating my Mom and Dad's 30th wedding anniversary together this year as a family.

One of the treats my dad used to make every year was peanut butter buckeyes. There are loads of recipes out there for buckeye cookies, but I like my dad's the best.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Daddy's Buckeyes
Makes a bunch

2 sticks butter or margarine
1 lb powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (REAL chocolate chips, no chocolate flavored chips)
1/2-3/4 sheet paraffin wax (the small sheets that come in a box, I think it's 4 oz)

Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Chill until firm.

Form into walnut size balls. Refrigerate until firm.

In a double boiler, melt together the chips and paraffin. Using a toothpick, poke the peanut butter ball. Dip the the ball in the chocolate leaving the top slightly exposed so the candy ball looks like a buckeye nut. (See photo above)

Chill on wax paper, removing the toothpick. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.


  1. Becca, I'm glad my mom said I should make a habit of reading your blog. You have certainly inherited the Zimmerli talent for writing! I love how you include a picture or two (or three, or four...) and write about family things before you give us the recipe. Very enjoyable!

  2. Remember to use REAL chocolate, because imitation or chocolate-flavored chips already have a bunch of wax in them.

  3. Do you remember the year we got Brian to come in and put out the presents after we left for church and Adam was sure that Santa had not come because we had not needed to go back in the house before we left? He didn't want to spoil things for you, but he was pretty sure the presents had not been put out because we didn't do it before we left and nobody "forgot" anything inside. When we got home and went in and he saw the presents under the tree, his mouth hit the floor. "What? How ...?" It was great.

  4. No, I don't rememeber that! How funny.

    The only thing I remember about Brian being here at Christmas when I was little was he gave me a life size pound puppy kitty. I was somewhere between 4-6 years old I think. Grandma and Grandpa had the tree out in the den that year- it was the big tree.