A Christmas Star Story

My husband and I shared our first married Christmas 36 years ago and of that first happy experience came a special star story to share with you.

Now these were the early days when Mike would still shop with me and try really hard to act like he enjoyed it. We were both working full time in downtown Cincinnati and of course we worked very long hours, trying to build careers. And as amazing as this sounds now, Mike handled all the money even though we were both working. I put my salary in the bank every Friday (no direct deposit then) and Mike would “give” me money as I needed, but of course I had to ask. This was 1973 and this was how the world was.

We both had grown up in families that always had real Christmas trees. Artificial trees were not so readily available and the only person I knew that actually had one was my Tete Menka. She had a magical silver tree (which I am sure was made of some weird metallic polyester fiber) that was on a revolving stand, and had colored lights. As the stand moved, the tree rotated and the lights changed color. Wow, this was stupendous. Anyway, one night after work Mike and I went to Natorp’s, a nice nursery in Cincinnati, to choose a tree. I was so excited but of course he was “the man” and had to approve my choices and the cost. We chose a tree and on the way to the car, I passed a display of tree toppers. One was a gold star that lit up and it cost the absolutely amazing price of $7.99. This was a big deal, considering a 7’ tree cost 10 bucks.

I so wanted this star – it put stars in my eyes. So Mike smiled at me and said, yes, we could afford it. He placed it at the top of the tree in 1973 and it has been our tree topper every year since. The lights of course burned out long ago, but I wired tree lights into it and it still shines brightly. We have been blessed with so much in our lives, and every year when I see this star I am reminded of how fortunate we are to still have each other and our beautiful star. I am sure you all have a similar story and I hope you share it this year. Merry Christmas and special blessings to all of you from BECKY KNOWS EVERYTHING!!


Share Your Holiday Photos

Sometimes it is easy to get stuck in the rut with your holiday decor. If you have some fresh ideas to share with other Becky Knows Everything readers, send them to me at beckybarras@hotmail.com. I will post them along with some photos of my own holiday decor. Happy Holidays!


Your Holiday Home

So first off, I apologize for not posting the last week or so, but I took a trip to NYC to enjoy the holiday magic and to help a friend with some design work. I will write more about my NYC adventures soon. As Christmas nears, I know most of you probably have already finished your holiday decorating but I thought you might enjoy a few last minute tips to make your décor even more special. Remember, bigger is almost always better (except in a weight loss program) and statements of design are the key to making your home a little different than the neighbors.

Candles: Having a nice candle centerpiece on your dining room table is fine but having multiple votives all around the centerpiece, all through your bookshelves and lined up in a row on your sofa table will make your room beautiful. Use cream or white votives please, that way any color or style of votive holder will work.

Flowers or Greenery: I once worked for a fabulous designer and she had us to her home at Christmas. She purchased about 30 small pots of white cyclamen from the florist and placed them on every flat surface she could find. She scattered votives amongst them and I cannot emphasize enough how magical the space was. She lined them up on the fireplace and the candles reflected in the mirror above. Cyclamen are now available at your grocery store florist, greenhouses or retail florists.

On my own entry table I have a huge clear vase my sister bought for me. Every year for the holidays I fill it with pine and cedar branches and large sprays of silvery, glittery faux stems. One year the tape unwound from the faux branches and colored the water a not so pretty brown color. I changed the water and added a teaspoon of red food coloring and what a pretty change that made!!

Glass Bowls: Enough cannot be said about how pretty a glass bowl can be for the holidays when filled with floating flowers, silver or gold ornaments or pinecones with a red plaid ribbon. You can even spray paint the pinecones. We all have those glass salad bowls people gave us years ago and they really do a nice job at Christmas. You can put a candle in them with silver marbles or even fill them with candy. I personally prefer Lindor truffles.

Lights: You can never have enough lights. I even put lights up the sides and across my dining room window treatment. Mix them with greenery and swag the mantle, the staircase, your mirrors (I love it when people even decorate the powder room mirror). Light up your doorways too. The simple mini clear lights are so inexpensive and available everywhere, so buy a few more 100 strands and get going.

There you go, now take what you have already done and add to it to make it even more special!!

Photos from Pottery Barn


Cookie Magic

JBM writes: "Do you happen to have any crowd pleasing cookie recipes that package beautifully? I'm planning on having one of those cookie parties and want to knock the socks off the old chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin."

Well JBM….OF COURSE, I have a few recipes that are unusual – one from my sister (a wonderful baker) and one from me. Here you go:

Coconut Chews

¾ c. shortening (you can use Crisco or half butter and half Crisco)
¾ c. powdered sugar
1 ½ c. flour
2 eggs
2 tbs. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1c. brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
½ c. chopped walnuts
½ c. coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream shortening (or shortening and butter mix) and powdered sugar. Blend in flour. Press into bottom of ungreased 9x13 pan and bake 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Mix remaining ingredients and spread over hot baked crust. Bake 20 minutes longer.

For the icing you will need to mix 1 ½ c. powdered sugar, 2 tbs. butter (melted), 3 tsp. orange juice and 1 tsp. lemon juice until smooth. Spread on cookies while they are still warm. These can also be made without the icing but I think it adds a festive touch. Cool and cut in squares.

Cheesecake Cookies

My mom discovered this recipe years ago and it is a family/friend favorite. I actually have a friend that wants me to make him a whole recipe of these instead of gifting him with my cookie assortment each year. They are yummy but they do need to be refrigerated since it is a cheesecake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust mix together 1/3 c. brown sugar, 1 c. flour, and 1/3 c. butter, melted. Save 1 c. of the mixture for a crumb topping. Put the rest of the mixture into an 8x8 pan and pat down. Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes.

For the filling, mix together 8 oz. cream cheese, softened, ¼ c. sugar, 1 egg, 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice, 2 tbs. milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour mixture over baked crust and top with reserved crumbs. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. These are very rich so you can cut small squares.

*Becky Knows Everything: Since an 8x8 pan pretty much makes as many as I can eat myself, go for doubling the recipe and use a 13x9 pan.


The Four Angels

Well it’s that holiday time of year once again so I thought I would share a short story with you. Many years ago (like 30) my mother-in-law gave me a wonderful Christmas gift. She had always been involved in craft fairs, quilt making, etc. and she had attended a local fair in Milwaukee and bought me, her daughter, and her other daughter-in-law the same gift.

It was a set of four handmade angels, small to large that were made of folded paper and were beautifully detailed with hair made from moss with a crown of baby’s breath. Ivy was painted on the skirt of the dress and each angel held an ivy bouquet. Golden ribbon was tied at the waist and in a bow in the back. The moment I opened the box I knew they were something to treasure and even hand down to my own daughter some day. They were exceptionally handcrafted and so pretty. I promptly added them to my vast Christmas decoration collection.

About 10 years later, I became very close friends with a wonderful woman who had lost one of her grandchildren in a tragic accident. We were planning our annual holiday lunch and gift exchange and I couldn’t think of anything to buy her. She had shared with me so many personal stories about her family and how they honored the little boy they had lost each year by releasing balloons and sharing memories. My friend loved angels and felt they reminded her of her very special grandchild. As I looked around my house I spotted my own precious angels and thought to myself-“what a fitting gift for Ann.” So, I chose one and wrapped it up and presented it to her as a special gift. She was so appreciative and each year when I unpack my three remaining angels, I notice the one missing and I think of Ann and her loss and the hope that I make her smile when the holidays come around. She has my beautiful angel in her home honoring her beautiful baby, Kyle.

As you all prepare for the holidays I hope there is a special angel in your life too.


Mom and the Monitor

Last week my 84 year old mom went for a regular checkup and while her blood pressure was fine, the doctor felt her heart was beating a bit too fast. He recommended she wear a heart monitor for a day so he could figure out whether or not she needed a pacemaker. I know this is not typically a funny subject, but with Mom there is always some humor somewhere.

So Mom had the monitor put on today. I called to see how she was doing and she was so funny. First she complained she had wires coming out everywhere and then she complained that a nurse practitioner had taken care of her, not the “REAL” doctor. Anyway, she said she was given a report she was to fill in, documenting her day and whatever she was doing. She said she even had to record bathroom trips which she found very intrusive.

I asked her what she had written down and it was all the normal stuff – washing dishes, making dinner etc. So, I told her to spice things up. I figured she could entertain the doctor and his staff. Here’s what we came up with:

9:00a.m. While taking out the garbage, decided to wash the car, wax it and put the snow tires on.

10:00a.m. Mailman comes to door with package – invited him in for sex and cookies.

12:00p.m. Climbed up on roof to fix a stray shingle. While up there, decided to clean gutters, too.

1:00p.m. Took a jog downtown (4miles), had 3 donuts and jogged home.

3:00p.m. Plumber comes to fix the faucet – he is really cute (looks like Dean Martin which to Mom is FAB), had sex with him too.

5:00p.m. Quick trip to Victoria’s Secret at the mall – no secret here. Bought some new lingerie since the guy that shovels my snow (Vern) will be coming soon.

8:00p.m. Watched finale of “Dancing With The Stars”-very happy Donny Osmond won.

Well you get the idea. Hopefully Mom will be OK and will keep on being the wonderful Mom she has always been. Who knew she was so racy???