By: Michele Timmons
My husband Thomie and I both come from fairly large and boisterous families, so inevitably every holiday gathering becomes an event, and every event feels like a big, holiday gathering. Our large family has a lot of great traditions that I could write about for days, but these are some of my favorites--events which are actually adaptations of traditions from my own childhood.
Family Florida Vacation: My family always went to Florida every summer when I was a child. These family vacations are some of my fondest memories. My mom, sisters, and I even continued our vacations after my dad died while I was in high school. When I met Thomie, I discovered that he had never been to Florida (his family had very few vacations). Together, we decided that family vacations would be a priority. So, we've always kept a savings account just for vacations. Our kids also do their part to help us save. They save up their change all year, and then we take them to the bank right before vacation to cash it out for “fun money” – a little extra money for toys or something on the trip. When the kids were very little, my parents bought a beachfront condo which has become the most sacred spot for everyone in the family. My sister, her husband, and their two kids join my family for a week of fun in the sun every year. My parents come down and spend a few days with us also. Initially, we all stayed in my parents’ condo together – yep all 11 of us! But as the kids have grown older, the grandparents have opted for a separate unit. It’s a great opportunity spend time together while maintaining some personal space ;) . We all love that the most important decision we have to make while on vacation is where to go for dinner, and the only math we have to do is calculating how many dozen chocolate chip cookies have been eaten.
Christmas Cookie Extravaganza: When I was a child, my mom and grandmother baked Christmas cookies every year. I recall sitting at the kitchen table helping make sugar cookies, cream wafers, pizzelles, and so many more! It seemed like they baked for days, and the house always smelled so yummy. My husband's mom and aunt also used to bake like crazy. So, one year, while my sister Sherri and her family were living with us while they waited for their new house to be built, we all decided to try our hands at baking Christmas cookies. We baked about three or four different kinds of cookies. Since then, we've gotten a little bolder and have added a few new recipes to our list. By the time our kids started school, we figured out an efficient system and were making 8-10 different kinds of cookies. Now, our tradition always begins with a kid-free/spouse dinner on Thursday night. Over dinner, we review our plans and make our shopping list. Then we head to the grocery store to get supplies. This is a major endeavor which usually ends up taking up two grocery carts and costing us over $300! On Friday morning we send the kids off to school and get started making dough. We quickly learned that we must have at least some cookies ready before kids come home from school, so we begin with no-bake cookies. Over the years, we've also discovered that Sherri can’t make no-bakes worth a darn, so we always recruit my mother-in-law to join us. Now the no-bakes are always perfect ;). We even wear our special Christmas aprons and spatulas! By Saturday, we are going full force and recruit kids to help roll cookie balls and run the pizzelle iron. Our little sister Amy joined us one year. Surprisingly, she never came back. Maybe we shouldn’t have left her on the pizzelle iron for 8 hours. We always finish up on Sunday afternoon with Thomie leading the charge as we make 300+ buckeyes. We now call ourselves "Sisters Bakery", and last year we made over 170 dozen cookies! What do we do with over 2000 cookies? We give them away to family, friends, and teachers as holiday gifts. In fact, there are some teachers that are now disappointed when they don’t have one of our kids in their classes.
The more I reflected on our family traditions, it became clearer to me that the event, whether large or small, really doesn’t matter. What matters is being together. Thomie and I do our best to find ways to create memorable events throughout the year which will bring our family together. Every time we have an event, family members talk about memories of past events. This always brings a smile to our faces. My ultimate hope is that some of our traditions will also become traditions my sons carry on into their adult lives.
I would love to hear about your favorite family traditions. Sherri and I are on the lookout for new recipes as we prepare for Sisters’ Bakery 2012, so feel free to share those too.