Pioneer Potluck: Abducted Christmas Tree

Christmas 1979 was looking very bleak and lonely.  Being the youngest child, I was the only one left at to share Christmas with my mother. Mom and I were living in Anchorage in a basement apartment.   She announced she had invited a man named Bernie over for Christmas Eve to decorate our tree.


Christmas Eve came, along with Bernie, a lonely gentleman, Mom had met at a local Inn, where she was employed as a hostess.   This was Bernie’s first Christmas away from his daughter and grandchildren, whom he missed terribly.  They lived in Maine and he was stationed in Alaska by an oil company.  Bernie’s story didn’t surprise me, as my mother always had a soft spot for a lonely soul (orphan) without a family, to share the holidays.

Well, along with Christmas Eve, Bernie and our artificial tree, came eggnog.  But not just ordinary eggnog, but eggnog and rum, which Bernie so cheerfully supplied.  Apparently it was one of his old family traditions. 

We proceeded to transform a cardboard box stuffed with plastic branches into a decent looking tree. We began to notice how meticulous Bernie was, when it took him at least ten minutes to form each branch, perfectly.  He kept telling us it had to be “asymmetrical.” 

Hours later the tree branches, finally together and the lights shining brightly on our perfectly asymmetrical tree, it was time for our homemade ornaments and treasured crystal bulbs.  This turned into another ordeal.   Bernie, at this point was perched on the sofa arm rest, eggnog in hand, visions of Christmas past with his family, flashing through his mind. 

Mom and I exchanged worried glances, but proceed to hang our treasured ornaments.  Bernie, at times, would let out a squeal of disappointment, and announced “that is the wrong spot, move it up and to the left, NO! NO! I mean to right, now turn it around!”  We finally had all the ornaments hung with the precise direction of Bernie.  I had to admit it was a perfect tree, but acknowledged it had not been worth it.  It was well past midnight and we had a very tipsy Bernie on our hands.  He mumbled about our beautiful  tree and how empty his room was back at the Inn. 

With a blink of an eye, Bernie jumped up, grabbed the middle of our tree, yanking the lights out of the socket, and proceeded to drag the tree to the door of our basement apartment.  Opening the door, clouds of warm air, hit the cold, cold night air and fog and steam surrounding him, he disappeared up the stairs.

There was yelling and screaming about our ornaments as the tree went bump, bump up the steps.  Garland and ornaments and bulbs scattered everywhere,  my Mom yelling loud enough for the sleeping neighbors to hear her scream,  “I don’t care about the tree but let us have the ornaments back!”   Bernie disappeared into the cold night, in a cloud of fog, dragging our tree to this little 280-Z car. We all know how little those cars are!!   He crammed and pushed the decorated tree into his little car. 

He jumped into the car, slammed the door, and with a  roar of the engine, tried to take off.  Not getting enough traction, as it was snowing, he was stuck.  He jumped out of his little car, stomping off down the driveway in the direction of the Inn.  Mom yelled at him, reclaimed our tree, pulling it back out of the little car. 

Lights went on all over the neighborhood, as astonished sleepy people, peeked out from behind the drapes, just in time to see my Mom pulling the tree out of the car, walk across the parking lot.  She was quite a sight, with her pink fuzzy slippers.  She raised the tree like a trophy.  I was in a state of shock.

Back in the apartment, after retrieving bulbs and garland from the parking lot and the stair well, we both burst out laughing and tried to salvage what we could of our tree.

Christmas morning arrived, the night before seemed like a dream.  Mom said Bernie was crazed from all the eggnog but he was still a very lonely man and this was Christmas Day.  So we decided to remove just our treasured ornaments, left the rest of the decorations in tact, and delivered the tree to the Inn for Bernie to enjoy. I am sure he spent hours and hours making it “asymmetrical” again. We never saw him or heard from him.  We told each other – Never ever again will we ever have a Christmas like this one!  

Susan Jordan is our guest author.

Friendly Fruitcake Everyone Loves

Full of dates, nuts and pineapple with none of the citron. Simple recipe. Oil a 13 x 9 foil pan or baking dish.  You can bake this in loaves also – but easier to serve in small 2 inch squares.

Open and drain:
1-20 oz can chunk pineapple tidbits-drain and lay on paper towel and pat with another, to dry.  Cut each tidbit in half.  Set aside. (Can use candied pineapple, much easier) 

Combine in large bowl:
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Open and place into flour mixture:
2-8oz pkgs chopped dates
1 1/2 cups, dried small diced fruit-or you can buy the diced fruit in small packages. 
1 1/2 cup craisins
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup of maraschino cherries-drained, patted dry, halved.
OR 1 cup candied red cherries-halved
1 1/2 cup dried apricots – diced small
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans – or Brazil nuts chopped or both
The pineapple halves.
In a bowl: Separate 4 eggs and beat the whites to stiff peaks.  Fold in the yolks, 1-teaspoon vanilla or almond extract.  Add the egg mixture in to the flour-fruit, stirring until well blended.  Pour into the 13 x 9 oiled pan and press down slightly for even distribution.  Bake at 300 degrees (yes) for 1 to 1 1/2hours.  Test middle after one hour to see if it no longer sticks to toothpick.  Take out and let cool 20 minutes. This is optional- spoon Apricot Brandy or Rum over top of warm cake. Wrap and store one week.  We like this so much we usually cannot wait that long.  ENJOY!!  PS Use foil pan and leave in pan until ready to cut or transport.

Curried Seafood Salad

3/4 pound shrimp in shells or buy 1/2  pound cooked shelled shrimp
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1 tblsp honey
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups torn lettuce
3 cups torn spinach
1 cup celery - sliced
1/2 cucumber - sliced
8 oz crabmeat
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup raisins (op)

Cook shrimp in lightly salted boiling water until pink. One to two minutes.  Drain and cool.  Carefully remove shells and de-vein.

For dressing; in a blender, combine vinegar, honey and curry.  Cover and blend 5 seconds.  Through opening in lid, with blender on slow, gradually add oil in thin stream.  Stop blender to scrape sides and mix.  Cover and chill.

On a large serving platter, combine lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, shrimp and crabmeat.  Pour dressing over mixture. 

Garnish with coconut and almonds and (op) raisins.  Serves 6.

Chai Birch Log

1 cup butter softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoon instant unsweetened tea powder
1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom OR nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine butter and sugar and egg in bowl.  Beat until creamy.  Add remaining cookie ingredients and beat until well mixed – mixture will be crumbly. Chill 30 minutes.

Divide into 8 portions.  Roll each portion into a 12-inch rope on lightly floured board.  Cut rope into 2-inch logs.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Remove and cool 15 minutes.
6 oz white almond bark chopped
1/2 cup or semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Place almond bark in microwave on high for 20 seconds until melted smooth.  Frost the tops of log and place on waxed paper or wire rack.  Place chocolate chips and oil in microwave and heat 30 seconds, stir and heat until smooth another 15 seconds.  Dip fork into melted chocolate and drizzle crosswise over logs. (Simulation of bark on a birch tree)  Let stand for about 1 hour.
4 dozen

Brownie Cookies

Bob’s snack for tonight
1 pkg chewy fudge brownie mix
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs

Stir in 1/2 cup nuts (walnuts-pecan, salted peanuts)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or M&M’s or Reese’s pieces

Shape into balls (about three tablespoons) Place on a cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes


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