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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Family Heirloom

by Lee McKenzie

How is it even possible that a gift I received as a child has already become a family heirloom? After all, I’m not that old! But I think some things have all the hallmarks of an heirloom, even when they’re brand new, and the rocking horse I received for Christmas in the mid 1950s is one of those things.

It was going to be a lean holiday that year. My father had been laid off from his job so to make enough money to buy my Christmas present—a rocking horse—he chopped firewood for a neighbor.

Yes, that's me in the photo!

I still love this horse. His name is Old Paint, after Tonto’s horse, Paint, from The Lone Ranger. Anyone remember that show? The Lone Ranger himself was very heroic, but I adored Tonto. I’m not sure why I added Old to my horse’s name. Maybe Tonto sometimes called his horse old Paint?

I had plenty of adventures on Old Paint as we galloped through my imagination. As you can see, I’m not the only child who had fun with him. This photograph of him being ridden by my daughter was taken about thirty years later.

I can still make out the name of the manufacturer and model on the back of the rocker. It’s called a Foxhunter, made by Tri-Ang, a British toy company. The body and rocker are painted metal, the reins and stirrup straps are leather, and the mane and saddle are rubber and still in great shape, although the tail is now gone.

While Old Paint waits for another generation of riders, he enjoys a place of honor in our holiday decor.

Doesn’t he make you think of an old-fashioned Christmas?

Guests of all ages fall in love with him!

Speaking of guests, I like to have lots of snacks on hand when people drop by, and I like things to be simple so I’m not tied to the kitchen and missing out on all the fun. Here are a couple of recipes easy-to-make tasty holiday treats that can be made a day or two before a party and set out just before guests arrive.

Spicy Almonds and Pecans

1 cups whole almonds
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

Curried Cashews

3 cups roasted cashews, unsalted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

The preparation instructions are pretty much the same, but please note the different roasting temperatures and times.

Thank you for joining me at this busy time of year.

Wishing you a happy holiday,

~ ~ ~

Lee McKenzie writes for Harlequin American Romance. WITH THIS RING (December ‘07), her Christmas-in-July story, is still available as an ebook from and (Kindle edition). For more holiday fun and good cheer, please visit Lee at The Writer Side of Life.

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At 7:35 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Lee, those pictures are so sweet! We have a wooden baby doll bed that's been passed down for a couple of generations. It's so nice to have objects like that in a family.

Great recipes! I'm giving my Dad some homemade candied nuts for his Christmas gift. He's an "already has everything" guy, and he does appreciate something to snack on while he works. :)

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Hi, Gillian!

Do you use your doll bed as part of your Christmas decor? I'll bet it would look charming, tucked under the tree and filled with dolls dressed in holiday finery.

We have an old child-sized wooden table and chairs that we've used to create a teddy bears’ Christmas tea party.

I'm curious to know how to make candied nuts. I'll bet they're as yummy as they sound!

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Marin Thomas said...


what a beautiful horse! I'm so glad you've kept it. My husband and I have moved around quite a bit during our 23 years of marriage and with every move I make sure I pack the family "treasures" before the movers come in and do their thing.

It's not easy moving those treasures each time, but worth it. Just think how special that horse will become one day when one of your grandchildren have their picture taken riding it!

Marin Thomas
RT Top PIck
The Cowboy and the Angel (Nov 08)

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, what a beautiful horse! I had one that my dad bought me. My mom swore I was too young and was going to break my neck, but my dad insisted. From the time he put me on it, I used to bounce it all over the house. I gave it to my much younger cousin when we were moving and couldn't take it with us.

I bought one for my son and he 'donated' his to a friend's dad who built a carousel which they displayed in their yard every year at Christmas.

Love the recipes! I'll definitely be trying them.


At 10:36 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Marin, we've moved more times than I care to count, and the treasures have always received special attention.

As for grandchildren, we're there...yet!...but we sure look forward to them!

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Susan Lyons said...

Lee, I love Old Paint. He's a beauty. My parents never gave me a horsie but one year there was a gigantic box under the tree, and it was a very cute yellow convertible roadster - like, an old Morgan or some such thing. I loved that thing.

And I grew up to own convertibles too. A car with a proper roof just doesn't seem right to me. Do you think my parents are to blame for that? LOL.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Sheryll, it's hard to give up those special gifts, isn't it? I love the idea of the Christmas carousel. Old Paint is a lot like a carousel horse, but I wouldn't want to put him outside.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

LOL, Susan! Sounds like you've been driving your dream cars for most of your life! I always wanted one of those snazzy pedal cars, but had to settle for a rocking horse and a tricycle ;)

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Your horse is beautiful! I recall having a plastic rocking horse as a child. It had springs that held it to the metal frame. When my family moved to Louisiana, I don't think the rocking horse made it. I'm hoping the large Clara Nutcracker I decorated for my ballerina daughter last year becomes our family heirloom. I painted a replica of the dress she wore last year to commemorate her big role, and of course changed the eye and hair color. She's standing in front of the tree.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Mo, your Clara Nutcracker sounds like a keeper to me. I hope you'll share some photos with us.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Lee -

How wonderful to have kept that horse in your family to be used again. I gave a friend a gift inside one of those "silver balls" (the one you're supposed to return the next year with a gift inside) years back and we still hunt up things that will fit inside. Makes for a fun challenge to be creative.

Love the recipes, especially the curried nuts - we're big curry fans.

And, I loved your WITH THIS RING story - great one for anyone with an e-reader to enjoy during the holidays.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I love your Christmas horse, Lee! My children had a beaten up old wooden horse painted red, and they loved it. It was on springs and bounced, and the creaking of the springs was so loud it drove us crazy. We had to part with it when we moved out of state and the kids were too big for it, so it went to close friends.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

How nice that you kept the toy horse from you childhood. We had a wooden horse that my grandfather made for us kids. I can't remember what happened to it. We moved a lot when I was growing up and after I was married, as well. So lots of things were sold in garage sales or given to friends as the years passed. Too bad we didn't keep that old horse, especially since my grandfather made it.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great pictures, Lee! And thanks for the recipes. I love that you have saved the horse and taken such good care of him. Thanks for sharing.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Dianna, I'm so glad you enjoyed WITH THIS RING. You made my day! Exchanging gifts in the same ornament every year. Those kinds of traditions are as much fun as the gifts themselves.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

LOL, Delle! I can imagine that the sound of squeaky springs would grate after a while. The metal stirrups on my rocking horse clang against the body and I don't mind that. Probably because it reminds me of my childhood.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Merrillee, I'm surprised that so many people have childhood memories of rocking horses. I wonder if they're still popular today, or people tend to buy more high-tech toys.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Happy holidays, Theresa! I no longer have much stuff from my childhood, but I'm so grateful we kept that horse.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

We have lots of ornaments from my childhood. If I ever get around to putting up my tree I'll unpack them.

I used to have one of those horses on springs in my office when I was doing child therapy. Talk about being tired of the noise!!

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Diane, a few years ago my parents gave me a box of old Christmas ornaments we've had since I was a child. They're so beautiful! I'm always careful to hang them on higher branches so the cats can't reach them.


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