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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sabotaging Christmas

by Terry McLaughlin

Some families share holiday traditions that foster warm and wonderful memories. My four siblings and I shared some rather eccentric approaches to the season, with spying and sneaking near the top of the list.

Each year, our efforts to spoil our own Christmas-morning surprises escalated. On the rare occasions our mother left us unsupervised at home, we'd climb on chairs or shelving to search every corner of every storage area in the house, trying to find a gift cache. No matter how clever our parents were, we'd usually find something--with the exception of the one year our father kept our presents in the locked truck of his car. And no matter how we threatened each other to keep our discoveries secret, our mother usually found out we'd sneaked a peek--and then the presents would disappear, making us fear that Christmas as we'd known it might disappear, too.

My mother couldn't stand secrets or surprises any more than the rest of us, so she spared us the agony of waiting until Christmas morning to unwrap gifts from distant relatives. Anything that came in the mail got opened the day it arrived.

On Christmas Eve, we children would make a pact to wake in the middle of the night for a flashlight preview of coming attractions. One of us would rouse the others, and we'd all tiptoe toward the tree, terrified of being discovered out of bed, to investigate the goodies beneath the branches. Of course, by Christmas morning we were usually too tired to enjoy all the things we'd already figured out we were receiving.

I sometimes miss the old pre-Christmas spy games. They added an element of suspense to the season.

Here's a recipe for a delicious treat I discovered at tea in Australia last year. Mmmmmm--enjoy!



1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 Cup dried coconut
2/3 Cup self-rising flour
6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" square cake pan. Stir sugar, coconut, and flour together; add butter and mix. Press mixture into prepared pan using back of a spoon. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly risen. Set base aside to cool for about 10-20 minutes (while making caramel). Leave oven on.

Caramel filling

2 Tablespooons butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
14 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

Place butter and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 9-12 minutes, until caramel thickens. Gently spread caramel over base. Return to oven for a further 10-12 minutes (a bit of lightly browned caramel should form around the edges). Allow slice to cool to room temperature.


5 ½ oz milk or dark chocolate, melted

Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally (or melt the chocolate in the microwave). Spread melted chocolate over caramel.

Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20-30 minutes. Remove slice from pan and cut into pieces, using a hot, dry knife (fill a tall glass with hot water, dip knife in water for a few seconds, wipe dry with a clean towel). Store slice in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


At 8:30 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

Terry -
We weren't quite the spies you were, but your story reminded me of how exciting it was to tip toe out early to see something under the tree. We always got to open the gifts from one aunt and uncle early so Christmas felt like it was a 24 hour event.

Yummy recipe - can't wait to try that one.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Christine said...

We also were spies in our house. My mom didn't get it at all and it would drive her batty. My hubby and I aren't good at keeping secrets. I already have my new KitchenAid stand mixer (yeah! my kitchen supplies are complete)sitting on the counter. One year we were so eager to share our gifts, we had NOTHING to open by Christmas Eve. Now we are parents so we have to be "good." But it's not easy.

I'm looking forward to trying the recipe. It looks yummy.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I somehow knew from an early age that finding my presents ahead of time would ruin Christmas. So I never searched for presents. One year I even resented that my husband gave me my present early, even though I loved it and it had been an unusually thoughtful gift.

To me it is the surprise, the anticipation and excitement of opening gifts that make for a great Christmas morning.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

My mouth is watering! I can't wait to try this recipe.

My older sister was the one who was the Christmas spy. She also was the birthday spy. I recall one year she found Barbie campers and dune buggies (we usually got the same presents in my mother's determination to be even)in the cedar closet in our basement. Getting into the cedar closet required getting the key for the lock, which my dad secured on a high rafter in the basement, next to the key for the freezer, which Kathy and I would also on occasion procure for ice cream when it wasn't dessert time. She was the genious; I was the minion.

That Christmas was bittersweet. I was excited that my Ken and Quick Curl Kelly had wheels and a camper along with plastic fire, but I felt guilty. I had to fake my surprise Christmas morning, which made me feel even more guilty! I think that's when I stopped looking.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Dianna--when we're children, there's nothing like seeing those packages under the tree, is there? I always enjoyed seeing what my brothers and sister were getting, too :-).

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Hi, Christine! I'm sure we drove our mom batty, too :-).

I'm laughing at the way you and your husband open your gifts early--a lot of that goes on around here, too ;-).

Congratulations on the new mixer :-)!

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Diane--I have a great deal of respect for people who follow the "rules" on Christmas :-).

Now I'm enjoying the blend of several families' traditions--Christmas Eve dinner with my husband's relatives and new Christmas morning rituals with my daughter-in-law's family.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Mo, your sister sounds as though she would have fit in well with my siblings ;-).

Yes, the slice recipe is incredibly sweet--which is how dessert should taste, in my opinion :-).

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I miss the times when the kids were small and we all gathered around to open presents. It had to be the night before because if we parents dared to sleep a little late, we woke up to a chaos of paper and missed out on the fun stuff.

My youngest daughter was the biggest sneak, and she could open and re-tape a package with the very best of them. She got so good at "guessing" I knew she was peaking. But we wanted presents under the trees. So I switched labels around. She caught on to the switch. Next year I pencilled in letters into the figures of the Christmas paper. She figured that out too. So I had to rely on my memory and didn't put any tags on any of them. Then there was the treasure hunt type gift, where they had to follow clues placed inside wrapped boxes until they reached the prize present. I have been known to hang an ornament on the tree with the present inside it. No one ever caught on to that one in advance.

These days we hide presents. That's not hard because we're all adults and there are only a few presents, and the tree looks really bare beneath it. But we still pull tricks on each other.

Last year my grandson ended up going all over the house following clues, and the next to last told him he had to drive to Grandpa's work place for it. He went to the car, where he found note on the seat that said "Oops, Grandpa made a mistake and brought it home instead. But I didn't want to waste all these great clues I'd already written. Look under the mat in the back." Under the mat was a note that said, "You know that big heavy box you had to move to get to this clue? That's it."

"It" was the big table saw he'd been wanting so badly. Being writers really teaches us how to plot, doesn't it?

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Terry, that is a great story! I could just picture all of you (especially YOU) sneaking down the stairs and looking through the gifts for your name! You stinker! Do you still search for gifts from your husband? ha!

Thanks for the recipe, too! Looks delicious! I think I'll try making those with my sisters on the 20th!

Happy Holidays to all!


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