Tuesday, 12 December 2017

On the 12th Day of Blogmas Challenge - Christmas Memories

Here we are on the last day of the 12 Days of Blogmas challenge and I have managed to post every day. Hurray for me! I usually have a very difficult time sticking to a schedule with my blog, it isn't the writing I have trouble with, it's actually getting it posted.

This year I stuck to it and got something on the blog every day, even if it was very early in the morning or late at night (you know, the time when most moms can find a few moments for themselves 😌

I can remember when our girls were small, having to work on the sweaters, scarves or dolly dresses or blankets I was making them for Christmas early in the morning or late at night; listening for tiny footsteps on the stairs, ready to hide the contents of my hands before they could spy anything.

I can't count the number of scrap blankets I've made over the years
Handicrafts have always been a big part of our Christmases and this still continues today. Our girls love to have all the little cousins over for craft nights and whenever our grandson has the chance, he will join craft sessions at holiday events.

Making a vintage Christmas wreath at the Clark County Museum Heritage Holidays event
Many of my fondest memories come from attending Christmas events with our family. Some of those are from this week (making memories with our grandsons are so special, I don't forget those from the past but these are different.) 

We were fortunate to receive tickets for the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village in Las Vegas during our visit. This was a new event for us and it didn't disappoint. The trees themselves were amazing. 

The Magical Forest
And what boy (or girl) wouldn't be excited to take a ride on a miniature train, especially one that loops its way through a forest draped with glittering lights?

The Forest Express
Of course, I do have fond memories of Christmases from my childhood. I was reminded of one, in particular, this week as we drove by a Christmas tree lot that was selling flocked Christmas trees. I hadn't seen a stock of trees like that since my family lived in Florida when I was eleven. 

That Christmas, things were pretty tight for our family since my dad had been laid off from his job until after the new year. My parents made sure there was food on the table but there wasn't enough left over for one of those very expensive flocked trees. 

Knowing that our mom was crushed at the thought of not be able to hang her cherished decorations on a tree that year, my brother and I approached the man at the lot and asked if he could spare some of the trimmed branches for us. He happily agreed to our picking up the discarded greenery so DJ and I carried as many home as our arms could carry. 

We carefully arranged our branches in a lovely container (the bathroom trash can, it was clear plastic faux crystal and looked beautiful to us) then showed our mom at dinnertime. You would have thought we were presenting her with real crystal and diamond crusted tree the way she reacted. I'll never forget that year when we had so little but truly had so much.

I remember another Christmas when we lived in a warmer climate. We were spending a few months in Phoenix where my dad was consulting on some construction project or other. Our cousin who worked as a thoroughbred horse groom at Turf Paradise race track was there at the same time. Since he was alone down there, we invited him to spend Christmas with us. My mom was worried he wasn't eating properly and felt she needed to take care of him for his mother (her eldest sister.)

The way that boy ate seemed to be proof that my mother's concerns were well-founded. I don't think I have ever seen food disappear quite that fast at any other moment in my life.

Many of our holiday memories center around the meals we share with our families. 

I remember well the times we gathered around the table in my grandmother's kitchen. She made sure no one ever had reason to leave without having enough to eat and then some. 

Then there were the desserts. Flapper, apple, and pumpkin pies. White cake with vanilla sauce, crumb cake, and matrimonial cake (made with rhubarb filling.) Home canned fruit with ice cream. And always freshly whipped cream to top whatever you felt need topping.

Most years her meals would off without a hitch but there was the one time that her apples were a little juicier than she thought and bubbling over in the oven, they burst into flames! All we heard was cracking and her screaming "Louis" at the top of her lungs to bring Grampa out of the livingroom.

He calmly took in the scene, reached for the fire extinguisher that was hanging on the wall and splat, he put the fire out in one go - but left Gramma to clean up the mess of burnt fruit pies covered in fire extinguisher foam.

Fruit pies may look innocent enough but can be dangerous 😱
My husband loves to try out different restaurants when we travel and during the holidays this is no different. Of course, he also has his favorites. Once of those was the old Thunder Mountain Barbecue Ranch at Disneyland. He loved the casual outdoor venue and the hokey entertainment, not to mention the food.

Barbecue chicken, ribs, beans, corn...you get the idea. And then there was his favorite dessert, a s'mores pie served in a cast iron skillet. He made sure to visit one last time on our Christmas visit a couple of years ago before it closed to make room for the new Star Wars Land.

S'mores pie
That was the same Christmas trip where I got to attend the 90th birthday party of one of my favorite actors, Mr. Dick Van Dyke. I just couldn't believe our luck when hubby read Mr. Van Dyke would be in the parade that weekend and then our daughters found the group who was putting on the event.

I managed to contact this friendly group of fans who welcomed me into their group and gave me a copy of the limited edition birthday card designed by the man himself. We had a terrific time.

Limited Edition card from the event
So many Christmases, so many memories. There was the year that my dad's sister decided to host us, only to forget to thaw the turkey and try to cook it quickly. A piece of advice, turning your oven to its highest temperature and leaving the lid off the pan results in something that while delicious in a steak (Chicago style - charred on the surface and very rare on the inside, in this case, still frozen!)

Then there was the time we had several family members coming over to our place in the country. All was going well until we heard a big bang in the kitchen - it is NOT a good thing when your oven element explodes while the turkey is being roasted! (Lucky for us Home Dept had a universal replacement and my turkey had the lid on. Disaster avoided.

Living in the country can have its own special challenges but there are the fun parts too, like when our grandson got his first ATV. Boy did he ever have a good time on that little battery-powered four-wheeler.

He didn't seem to mind the cold but my phone did not want to cooperate in taking a good picture

There have been Christmases in a hotel for a staycation treat.

And the joy of sharing Christmas with your great-grandma.

But the best Christmas memories of all are those that we continue to make with our families and friends.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Holiday Traditions

The 12 Days of Blogmas challenge is almost through. Today's topic is 11 Holiday Traditions. Writing about Christmas for the past ten days has visions of sugarplums dancing through my brain but I'll do my best to come up with a list that doesn't repeat too much from my previous posts. Here goes!

1 - Take a road trip - every year my husband takes his annual vacation for Christmas. After 37 years at the railway, he now has six weeks so we always try to include a road trip in late November to early December to get away before the festivities really begin.

This year, as we often do, we came to Las Vegas to visit friends and see some local sights. Our grandson loves coming here whenever he gets the chance to visit with the "kids" and visiting place like Death Valley, the Conservatory at Bellagio and Springs Preserve. 

Polar bear at the Bellagio Conservatory
2 & 3 - Start playing Christmas music on December 1st - this is a tradition from my mother. As much as she loved the holidays, she didn't play Christmas tunes until December 1st - also the day that we start decorating the house.

4 - Get out my favorite Christmas baking books - I've collected quite a few holiday recipe books over the years and love to spread them out, carefully choosing what will go into gift tins and baskets, as well as what we will serve at Christmas dinner.

5 - Order tea and Christmas cake - our eldest daughter discovered Murchie's Fine Tea and Coffee a number of years ago while on a visit to Victoria, BC. Since then she puts an order in every year for Christmas (their Christmas cake is amazing!)

6 - Get out the Christmas decorations - every year we promise ourselves to be more organized and avoid making the trek out to the storage barn through the snow to get the lights and inflatable out. Maybe next year πŸ˜€

Our purple Christmas tree (we have regular green ones too)
7 - Visit Santa Claus - our girls are grown but now we have our grandsons to take on visits to Santa. I like the one at Bass Pro Shoppe since they things for the kids to do and you get a free photo.

8 - Decide when to take the turkey out of the freezer - isn't this a holiday tradition for most families? One daughter says Butterball says so-and-so, another says she read such-and-such. The family pooch says, "put it in the sink nice and early, I'll bet I can jump up on the counter before anyone notices." Is there ever the perfect answer?

9 - Read holiday favorites - I love reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Carol. We've recently added the Little House Christmas Treasury as well. It contains all of the Christmas themed sections from Laura Ingalls Wilder's popular books.

10 - Find an antique - We love to add to our antique Christmas decorations each year, spending time together as we search for something special that catches our eyes.

11 - Go see the Holiday Train - no holiday season is complete without driving to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train wend its way across the prairie and stop in a small town to see the show on the stage car. 

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train in rural Alberta

Sunday, 10 December 2017

My 12 Days of Blogmas Wish List

*This post contains affiliate links that may provide me with a small commission if you make a purchase through them at no extra cost to you.

Here we are, on Day 10 of the 12 Days of Blogmas, and I am trying to think of items for my wish list. To be honest, my family generally knows just what I want for Christmas (I don't really hide my likes and dislikes plus they all know what my favorite hobbies are.)

Trying to get some ideas for this post, I headed over to one of my most popular shopping options, Amazon, and clicked into their Deals Store. Of course, I found a couple of things that hubby and I have been looking for to make traveling with electronics and cameras easier so I took advantage of finding them for a terrific price. (Of course, I did pick them up on a lightning sale so they are a bit higher now.)

There are so many things that could easily be added to my wishlist, a camera bag that will carry both my DSLRs and the lenses I pack along with me (especially for parades and National Parks since I hate having to swap lenses while I'm taking photos.) A portable power bank that can charge both my phone and hybrid PC at the same time. And a streaming stick that will allow me to run some of our homeschool curriculums on the TV plus give us more options in hotels to watch our streaming channels and other free ones. The ROKU looks like it would fit the bill.

Another handy item I used to have (before it was misplaced somewhere in our travels) is a wide angle/macro close up lens adapter. An instructor once recommended this handy little gadget in a class and I used it a lot.

The fifth item on my wishlist is another compact flash card for my old Nikon D70 camera. Although it's a few years old, I still carry it in my bag and have taken some great pictures with it. The only issue I have these days is that it doesn't take the newer flash memory cards so I have to keep an adapter handy for transferring my files to my laptop or Chromebook.

Wishlist item number six is a Kindle reader or tablet. I have other, older tablets but I find myself reading on them a lot more these days and with my Prime Membership, I have access to Prime Music and Prime Video. I still haven't decided which way I'd like to go with it.

How many of you have an Insta Pot (or one of the other brands of rapid electric pressure cookers?) Maybe you picked one up on a Black Friday sale. If you do have one (and have cooked anything savory in it) you have by now realized that Insta Pots can stink. It isn't the pot really, but the silicone sealing rings so I definitely have a set of new color-coded rings on my list (one for savory, one for sweet.)

Another item that looks handy is the carry case for the Insta Pot. We have traveled with a crock pot for years so we can prepare meals easily while on the road and are seriously considering swapping this to our 6-quart Insta Pot. The carry case would make this easy.

So since the name of my blog is Vintage Blue Suitcase, you might figure out that I love vintage items and luggage. While this is totally true unless I am traveling with family members who don't mind helping to load my vintage suitcase onto a luggage cart and up to our room, I find it a bit of a hassle to do it all myself. I have to admit, I've been eyeing a set on Amazon that has vintage styling but also a handle and wheels.

Item number ten on my wishlist, a gift card to spend on all of those wishlist items that you might not have been lucky enough to receive.

So there you have it, my wishlist. Of course, I've had a lot more fun shopping for our daughters and two grandsons this year. They are the greatest gift a mother could ever receiveπŸ’–

Our Family Favorite Holiday Movies

One of our favorite things to do this time of year is to settle down on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and steaming mugs of hot cocoa as we enjoy some holiday movies.

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have made this a lot easier but we also own many of our preferred title on DVD.

For Day 9 of the 12 Days of Blogmas Challenge, I'm sharing some of our family's favorite holiday movies.

1. Miracle on 34th Street - When I think of this film, I think of the original 1947 version. Natalie Wood as the little girl who starts out not believing in Santa Claus, that is until her mother (played by Maureen O'Hara) hires Kris Kringle as the Macy's Santa. It's a sweet little movie, suitable for the whole family.

2. It's a Wonderful Life - What Christmas movie binge watch is complete without Jimmy Stewart finding out what life would have been like if he had never been born. Not very nice at all.

3. Christmas Vacation - This holiday version of the National Lampoon Vacation movies is for the older kids and adults in the family. There are enough slapstick funny moments to keep them laughing throughout.

4. Scrooged - This is another of the older kids and adults holiday movies. A modern version of A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray's character has a darkness about him but, in the end, he learns the true meaning of Christmas. Not everyone's taste but others just love it.

5. A Christmas Story - This movie has become a classic for family viewing. While it does have some language, there are lessons to be learned. As our grandson points out, it's a movie about what Christmas was like "back in the day."

6. Home Alone - Another holiday movie designed to make you laugh, Home Alone is a bit far-fetched in its premise that a family would forget a child until they are on an airplane flying to Paris. The hilarity comes in the form of slapstick interactions between Kevin (the child left alone) and two hapless burglars who are trying to break into the family home. 

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas - This is one movie our eldest daughter does not like, she can't really explain why she just doesn't. On the other hand, our grandson loves it and can sing along to all of the lines. It is very Tim Burton with amazing music and art but some scariness.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - I'm a bit old-school and still enjoy the original animated version of this Dr. Seuss classic but the live-action version from 2000 is fun too (although it does have its scarier moments) and shares the same message, that Christmas can't be bought. I would stick to the original for the younger kids in the family and absolutely read the book with them as well.

9. Christmas with the Cranks - Our whole family laughs at this film. Just the thought of canceling Christmas and heading off to a sunny beach instead is a bizarre concept in our house (even when we go away over the holidays we have a tree and decorations in our hotel room!) Again, this is one of those movies where people come together with the Christmas spirit to celebrate in the end.

Friday, 8 December 2017

On the Eighth Day of Blogmas - Christmas Memories

For those of you who have been following along, I decided to participate in the '12 Days of Blogmas' challenge created by Britt at Alternatively Speaking. You will also know that I've put a bit of my own twist on some of my posts and today's (8 Christmas Pictures) is no different.

I decided to sit down at my computer and look for eight photos that were share-worthy but I found myself traveling down memory lane. Not concerned with the quality of the photos but more about the memories they evoked so I decided to share eight Christmas memories with you all today.

My grama putting the finishing touches on our Christmas turkey
My first memory comes from my childhood when my mom's younger sister decided she would host Christmas dinner in the tiny apartment where she lived with her husband and two children. Of course, not only would this have been the first time she hosted dinner, it was also the first time she had cooked a turkey on her own. Needless to say, the photo above shows my grama at the tiny stove, in the equally tiny kitchen, working to get dinner on the table. My aunt decided to wait until they had a larger home before hosting all of us again (which she did many times over the years!)

My next memory comes from that same Christmas (note all of the food on the coffee table since there wasn't enough room in the aforementioned tiny kitchen for us all!) My aunt went all out in decorating that year, including the paper Santa fireplace and a real tree that took up a huge corner of her living room. I'm not sure how she managed to squeeze eight adults and six kids around the tables but I do remember having a lot of fun.

OK, maybe this one doesn't look like a Christmas picture but trust me, it was a very special Christmas for me. My brother, knowing that I was a huge Peyton Manning fan, bought tickets in the second row on the 45-yard-line in Oakland for a Boxing Day (Canadian holiday, the day after Christmas) game with the Colts. Hubby and I used the hotel points he had been saving and had an amazing holiday in San Francisco for the first time before going to the game (the Colts won!)

I had always dreamed of spending Christmas at Walt Disney World. As a child, my family had visited several times, beginning with the first year it opened but we were never there for Christmas. A number of years ago my husband decided I had waited long enough and we booked our flights (we drove to Montana because the fares were much less from there, especially when you book the milk route πŸ˜„) and spent a wonderful 17 days at WDW. The highlight for me was the Candlelight Processional at Epcot where we heard Trace Adkins and a very talented choir retell the Christmas story. Not an evening I will soon forget.

My Charlie Brown tree memory comes from a year when hubby had a lot more vacation time than I did so he decided to drive to Disneyland for early Christmas with our daughters and grandson, fly them home, then fly me down to meet him in Las Vegas (it sounds more complicated than it was.) Since he had a couple of days on his own he decided to surprise me with this little tree and Christmas stockings in our hotel room. We still have that little tree and the sweet memories that go with it.

This simple photo of vintage paper wrapped books is a favorite because of its simplicity. I love how the paper evokes thoughts of a simpler time and of course, I love that the packages contain books. Each carefully chosen with the recipient in mind, making sure that it was something they would love to read (and that they didsn't own it already!)

Memory seven comes from last Christmas when our daughter (she's a dispatcher at the railway) was able to get tickets to ride on the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. Our grandson was super excited to ride along with her and dressed for the occasion. Much to his surprise, one of the band members was his Christmas sweater twin (they had to pose for a pic!)

Memory number eight comes from last year when my husband (he's a locomotive engineer) ran (drove) the CP Holiday Train from Calgary to Banff, Alberta. Our grandson (remember, he loves trains) and I drove out to meet the train part way and he was able to see his papa on the engine. This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them and one of my favorite memories.

So there you have it, my eight Christmas pictures and the memories attached.

Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide

I'm the kind of person who likes to get my Christmas shopping done nice and early so I can enjoy the holiday season without having to worry about fighting the crowds at the mall. I much prefer visiting light displays, sitting on the curb at a Santa Claus parade, or spending the evening watching a favorite holiday movie with my family.

There is one thing that inevitably gets left until the last minute though; stocking stuffers!

These days, I do much of my shopping online and am thoroughly enjoying my Amazon Prime Membership. Not only am I able to get things delivered quickly and for free, I am also able to access Prime Video and now Prime Music at no additional cost. So this year, much of my last minute shopping is being done right here at my keyboard.

Continuing with the 12 Days Blogmas Challenge, I decided to share seven of my favorite accessories here today.

1. Fancy Mittens - My girls have always loved fancy mittens (when you live in the prairies and wear them for six months of the year you like to have something fun) so when I saw these cute Hedgehog gloves on Amazon, I knew they would fit the bill.

2. Bluetooth Beanie Cap - One of our girls is never without her headphones while she's outside working in the garden or doing chores. This can get pretty cold in the winter so a Bluetooth Beanie Cap that connects to her phone would make a great gift.
3. Sleep Headphones - When I first saw a set of sleep headphones, I thought they were the oddest thing but now that I've tried them I totally get it. They are super handy when traveling since they act as an eye mask and headphones that block light and noise when you connect them to your phone and tune to your favorite relaxing music.

4. Travel Organizer - This one might require a little larger stocking and you can use it year round but its reasonable price should fit your budget. We travel a lot and I like to be ready to go at a moment's notice so I always have my travel organizer packed (you never know when you might get an invitation to a weekend concert or romantic getaway do you.) This travel organizer even comes with little bottles and jars of your favorite products so you won't need to lug along big bottles or resort to using whatever brand your hotel supplies.  

5. Charger Cable Organizer - I don't know about you but my charging cables usually look like Clark Griswold's Christmas lights - one giant knot of wires jumbled in the bottom of my bag. This little organizer looks like the perfect answer to keeping them all in good shape and easy to find when I need them! (Girls, are you reading this?)

6. Memory Card Case - When I travel, I take a lot of pictures and now our grandson has started to as well. Keeping track of all the little memory cards can be a hassle so having a little organizer that will slip easily into the pocket of a camera bag (or a Christmas stocking) would be a great help.

7. Multi-tool - I've included a multi-tool on my list because it's the one accessory my husband never travels without. There always seems to be a need for little scissors, screwdriver, or (my favorite) a corkscrew. 

I hope this list will help provide you with some ideas for those little last minute gifts. 

*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you for buying through the links but I may receive a small commission if you do.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas Lights and Hot Cocoa

We often travel in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and whether it be for work or leisure, we try to fit in a visit to local holiday light displays. 

I have seen too many to count over the years but I thought I would share the following with you on this 6th day of the 12 Days Blogmas Challenge.

Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - This annual event held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is in its 17th year and benefits the Speedway Children's Charity. With over 3 million LED lights, this drive-thru Christmas light display is quite amazing. If you prefer, you can book a spot on the open air Santa tram, sit back and enjoy the show. There is also a living Nativity on certain nights in December, as a community project by area churches. It's a lot of fun.

Photo courtesy of Glittering Lights at the Speedway
Christmas Windows at Disney Parks - Disney does an amazing job at all of their holiday decorations and while the animated Christmas windows aren't strictly Christmas light displays, they are a wonderful reminder of the days when our parents would load us up in the family station wagon and join our cousins for a treat of hot cocoa and hot roasted cashews from a street vendor as we oohed and aahed over the Christmas windows at the T. Eaton Store in downtown Toronto. Those days are long past but you can still see animated windows at Ogilvy's department store in Montreal (for this year at least, I've heard this may be changing in future.)

Mickey window at Disneyland (sorry about the lights reflecting from across the street)
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train - The CP Holiday Train has been traveling across Canada and the northern U.S. since 1999. Stopping in towns along the way to entertain folks as they collect items for local food banks, the Holiday Train has raised more than C$13 million and four million pounds of food along its routes. This moving Christmas Light display is extra special for our family since both my husband and eldest daughter work for CP Rail. Hubby has been the engineer on the train twice over the years, and our daughter has been able to take our grandson for a ride on it a couple of time. (I get to be the driver, dropping them off at one station and picking them up at the next but I don't mind, the entertainment is always first rate!)

Here's a video of last year's run in Alberta (it was so cold I thought my fingers would freeze onto my phone while taking it!)

Boulder City Parade and the House on 5th Street - Another moving light display, Santa's Electric Night Parade in Boulder City Nevada is a fun event with a lot of community involvement. The city also boasts the home of the 2016 winners of ABC's "The Great Christmas Light Fight" (I don't have a good photo but check out the link for a video from 13 Action News)

Little princesses in Santa's Electric Night Parade 
Clark County Museum - I love visiting this little museum during the holidays. Located in Henderson, Nevada, the Clark County Museum celebrates the season with their Heritage Holidays event. Two nights of family fun and holiday activities in early December. They decorate the houses on Heritage Street, both inside and out, reflecting the time period of each home. I've seen the decorations several times but I'm still looking forward to attending the Heritage Holiday event for the first time this weekend!

Upper Canada Village - My last entry is also at a museum, this time the living history, Upper Canada Village. We were fortunate to attend one of their Alight at Night events with a group of coworkers and had a fantastic evening. There are carolers, lights, refreshments, wagon rides, and (if you are well dressed and can stand the cold) miniature train rides along the St. Lawrence River. If you are ever in the area, this park is well worth the visit.

These are just a few of the spots we have enjoyed during the holiday season. Of course, a person doesn't need to travel to find Christmas lights since most communities have displays and many have parades as well. Visiting the lights and enjoying a Christmas treat with friends and family is a great way to take some time to relax during the hectic holiday season.

Five Favorite Canadian Christmas Treats

It's funny how, until we move away, we don't fully appreciate those things that we have come to know and love from our childhood homes. No, I'm not talking about mom taking care of your laundry or dad making sure the oil is changed in your car, I'm talking about those things we take for granted...like butter tarts.

Yes, those simple little gooey, buttery gems in a flaky crust that play a part in most holiday celebrations in...Canada! There, I said it. These toothsome delights are only available in the Great White North.

Traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Canada as a child, I can remember certain treats that we would bring north with us because they weren't available at home (Little Debbies were one of my favorites but.) Over the years, these products became available (like the Little Debbies) but others (Rotel tomatoes, how can you make queso without them!?) are not.

I never thought about the things that we had at home that weren't available to my American friends and family until I got older (seriously, how can a person live without the crunchy, cheesiness of a Hawkins Cheezie, (there is nothing else that comes close) and shopped for them myself.

Friends of mine who used to live in Canada and are now stateside now ask us to bring them care packages from home when we visit, especially around the holidays, so I decided to share with you, on the fifth of 12 Days Blogmas, my five favorite Canadian Christmas Treats.

Butter Tarts - According to the Food Network, "There are a gazillion and one ways to make (and eat!) a butter tart but only one truly great place to enjoy them: in Canada the birthplace of this sweet satisfying treat." Now my friends would argue that butter tarts taste just as sweet when eaten at their kitchen counter in Las Vegas but I think you get the idea.

Nanaimo Bars - According to the City of Nanaimo, British Columbia, "This creamy, chocolatey treat's origin is elusive, shrouded in mystery, and claimed by many as their own. Of course, we know that Nanaimo Bars originated in Nanaimo, or they would be called New York Bars, or New Brunswick Bars." Whatever they are called, I call their creamy layers of chocolate and custard topping a crunchy, nutty crust, delicious!

Buche de Noel - I've included this staple of our Christmas festivities because it is a traditional French-Canadian classic but Yule Logs are now available everywhere it seems. We even enjoyed tiny individual portions of this roulade cake filled with cream and decorated to look like a tree log on a Las Vegas buffet a few years ago. If you want to make one at home without having to worry about rolling the thin cakes, you can start off with a cream or jelly roll and then just do the decorating. I like to add some meringue mushrooms dusted with a bit of cocoa to add a woodsy look.

Flapper Pie - This old-fashioned custard pie made with a graham cracker crust and topped with meringue was my first clue to regional foods. This dish, so popular in the prairies, was unknown to my friends from eastern Canada. It's the perfect mix of sweet and light to finish off a heavy holiday meal. Alberta Milk has a simple recipe on their website if you'd like to give this a try at home.

Pouding Chomeur - Another traditional French-Canadian favorite is also known as Poor Man's Pudding or Unemployment Cake. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, this delectable pudding cake was created by factory workers during the Great Depression when ingredients were precious and few. I have never made the sauce with brown sugar as suggested in the article and my recipe (in French) comes from Coup de Pouce magazine and is called Pouding chomeur au sirop d'erable. (Please excuse my lack of accents I can't seem to figure out how to get this new little keyboard to cooperate!)

Here's the recipe from the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Hmmm, I'm getting hungry just putting this together. Obviously, our friends could use these recipes and prepare the homemade goodness of these treats themselves but there is something about a care package from home that makes it all the more special, especially when the package contains those elusive Cadbury chocolate bars, melty smooth Caramilk (how do they get the caramel inside those little pockets,) Coffee Crisp (these ones are truly Canadian and not even found in the U.K.,) and Mr. Big (although I hear they can be found in some areas of the U.S.) and, of course, a bag of crunchy, cheddary cheezies.