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Old Traditions New Ways

I come from a very traditional, very eastern European family. My father's father's family was from Hungary (hence the Hungarian "Szabo") and my father's mother's family and my mother's entire family came from Slovakia. My father's grandmother and my mother's grandmother were from the same village in Slovakia. I have always said, only half-jokingly, that my sister and I are inbred. 

One of the most visible traditions in our family is the food. When my sister and I were growing up, our Christmas Eve dinners featured sauerkraut soup with dried mushrooms, garlic sausage, small balls of dough drenched in honey and walnuts, and of course, the ubiquitous kolache, or nut rolls. Some of the nut rolls were filled with ground walnuts and sugar (with or without raisins), some were filled with lekvar (prune butter) and some were filled with poppyseed. They were cut up and passed around after dinner and washed down with gallons of black coffee. In the months running up to our wedding, my grandmothers would come to church and compare notes on who had made more kolache and frozen it for the reception. 

I do know how to make kolache and have made it in the past. It's incredibly labor intensive, though. Two dozen rolls could easily take me most of a day to put together and bake. The husband loves kolache and I am sure he wishes I would make it more often, but unless I think about it and do it in October, I usually run out of time as we get closer to Christmas. 

My mother found the Butter Maid Bakery in Boardman, Ohio, that makes kolache and other pastry delicacies like lady locks (which I plan to order for myself). She ordered two walnut kolache (without raisins, thank you) and had them shipped to the house for us to have with our Christmas dinner. We were thrilled with how good this kolache was, and that's saying something, as we've been eating it for decades. (I am kind of particular about chicken paprikas, too, in case you were wondering.)

Good food is not cheap. These were $22 each plus shipping, but when you consider the cost of the walnuts and the time required to make them, $22 seems like a bargain. (There was one year in the 1970s when my mother and her sisters took pre-orders for kolache. They spent a couple of weekends making it in my grandmother's kitchen—after they managed to get my grandmother to write down the actual recipe—and sold them for $6 apiece.) 

I don't feel so bad now about letting this particular tradition slide, although maybe I'll try making some kolache for Easter. 


Now that Christmas is over, I can show you the secret presents I was making. I made a lap quilt for my mother for her sunroom:

This started out as a layer cake (42 ten-inch squares of fabric) from the line called "Crazy for Red" by Minnick and Simpson. The layer cake contained all the reds, golds, and creams, but when I started playing around with it, I decided it needed something else to perk it up a bit. I pulled all the chocolate brown fabrics from my stash and added them to the mix. It was just what the quilt needed. (My mother's sunroom has dark brown wicker furniture.) 

The pattern is just a double-sliced layer cake quilt. I like how it showcases each fabric. I tried quilting this with loops but that was an obvious fail after just a few inches. I went with a different kind of loop pattern, of flowers:

This was such a fun pattern! Trust me, there is nothing more tedious than quilting pattern that is not fun. I'll definitely use this one again. 

I also made an apron for my sister. When she and my mother were in Charleston over Thanksgiving, she found an apron at a store that said, "Drink Up Bitches" on it and was going to buy it. The problem was that it was an ugly Army camo-style fabric. I told her I could make something better. While I was in Spokane, I picked up a yard of some metallic copper-colored 100% linen and a coordinating cotton for the lining. The owner of the quilt store here in Kalispell does freelance embroidery work, so I had her embroider the fabric for me, and then I made the apron (the week before Christmas, which was not cutting it close at all /sarcasm). I was pleased with how it turned out and my sister liked it, too. She is giving a party this Friday night and said she would wear it then. 

So I did manage to make some homemade gifts this year. Will wonders never cease? 

The girls are still here and will be for about another two weeks. My mother and sister left today. I can spread out a bit and work on a few sewing projects now, but it's going to be the middle of January before I get back up to full production speed. I have about half a dozen bags I want to make. 

Right now, I am tired. Christmas always takes a lot out of me. When I got to the Lutheran church to play for their Christmas Eve service, the pastor's wife came up and thanked me—she said that Christmas is always a stressful time for clergy and her husband had been thrown for a loop when their pianist canceled at the last minute. She said she appreciated that I was willing to help share the load. I think it's easy for ordinary people to forget that the services they like to attend on Christmas Eve take a lot of planning and that sometimes those involved have to give up time with their own families to make them happen. It would have been nice, too, if I could have taken time off from work. There are only three of us on this account, though, and one of the other women took this week off to visit with her grandchildren. I just need to be thankful that my job is flexible enough that I can work at odd hours, even if those hours happen to be 4 a.m. to 10 a.m.  

The husband is not having much fun this week, either. He came down with something that looks suspiciously like the flu. It's definitely worse than a cold. He managed to get out and plow today—we had 6" overnight—because we are supposed to get hit with another storm tomorrow and Friday and they are calling for multiple feet in the mountains. We need the moisture. I just wish it didn't all happen at once. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! Love those nutrolls. I'm that way about pierogis. Marie's mom made the best ones and can never find any as yummy as those. Great cabbage rolls also! Had a good but tiring time in North Carolina. It's nice to be home and in somewhat of a normal routine, at least until classes start next week. Hope Thomas is feeling better and have a wonderful New Year.

December 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDoreen

Yeah, this is just a weird week. I am always happy when we get to January. Thomas seems to have gotten past the worst of whatever that was. I just hope I don't get it!

December 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

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