I truly believe hands-on experiences create the best memories, and this special event was a treat for each of our senses. The old-fashioned lamp posts decked with fresh boughs of evergreen made Clear Lake’s quaint Main Street look like something straight from a Hallmark movie set. I loved hearing the clip-clopping of hooves as horse-drawn carriages made their way down the city streets. Carolers, dressed in vintage clothing, sang like angels on street corners. The delectably sweet smell of kettle corn popping permeated the air around the park.
While sunshine and 50-degree temperatures didn’t make it feel like an Iowa Christmas season, it allowed visitors to enjoy the many outdoor activities. Hats off to the North Iowa business community for coming together and providing a magical day filled with beautiful family memories! One of the highlights for me was a petting zoo that showcased everything from cows to camels and included the most adorable mini goats. (Now I want two more goats for Enchanted Acres!)
Other things I enjoyed about Christmas by the Lake was the variety of activities offered and the variety of stores open for shopping. At KB Emporium, my neighbor discovered beautiful glass, vintage Christmas ornaments.
Oh, how I love Christmas ornaments! I became enthralled with Christopher Radko® ornaments in 1989 when I was awarded a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. Award winners were treated to a tour of Christmas decorations, including a stop on State Street at Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) where I fell in love with the most ornate window displays. Inside the store, there was an entire tree decorated with the most colorful European glass ornaments. I couldn’t afford to buy one at the time, but I fell in love with those ornaments that reflected so beautifully upon my German roots. That year my mom surprised me with my first Radko ornament that reminds me of my favorite childhood cat.
Over the years, I’ve purchased Radko ornaments from special places we’ve had the pleasure of visiting on family vacations. Each time we decorate our Christmas tree, my kids and I recall our favorite memories from those trips.
This year, while attending Christmas by the Lake, I purchased another special colorful ornament from Ralphene’s antique and legacy boutique. It’s a little red hen that lights up. Each time I hang it on the tree, it will remind me of my chicken-loving grandma who will always be a part of my most treasured memories at Enchanted Acres. My grandma spent nearly every weekend of the fall with me at the pumpkin patch… until this year. This fall I traveled to Hoover’s Hatchery and picked up newly hatched chicks without Grandma riding shotgun.
Instead of being overcome with sadness this season, I’m focusing instead on all the joy she brought into our lives. Winter on my grandparents’ farm was my favorite. Not only did my grandparents live close to the best sledding hill, but my grandpa would hitch up his team of Haflingers, which are like miniature draft horses, and away we’d go. I was known to make spontaneous trips home from college when the weather conditions were perfect for a sleigh ride.
Memories like these keep loved ones alive in our hearts. Traditions connect one generation to the next.
My mom has created new traditions for her family. As soon as her grandkids walk into her kitchen on a holiday, one of the first things they ask is “Where’s the cranberry slush?” Our holiday celebrations begin with cranberry slush or cranberry punch and a table filled with appetizers. Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite recipes for a simple appetizer called Fire Crackers.
· 1¼ c. oil
· 1 T. garlic powder
· 16 oz. box of Keebler® Club Crackers
· 1 T. red pepper flakes (double the flakes for a little more “fire”)
· ½ T. onion powder
· 1 pkg. dry Ranch dressing mix
1. Mix oil garlic and onion powder, crushed pepper, and dressing mix. Pour into a 2-gallon bag.
2. Add crackers and carefully shake bag so that crackers get coated.
3. Let the bag set for 15 minutes and then shake it again. Pour onto paper towels and let dry. (COOK’S TIP: Top with paper towels, as well, to remove excess oil.) Store in airtight container.
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