Hear from Staff members on their holiday memories and traditions
I’m looking forward to spending some time reminiscing during Advent. As a kid, there was so much magic for me in this season - snow, time with family & friends, Christmas trees. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen into celebrating the season less each year, and really miss it.
One of my favorite traditions was to celebrate the snow with my family. Every year, on
the first day of snow (and sometimes just for fun) we would stay up a little late, go outside, and have a snowball fight. We called it a ‘midnight snowball fight’ even if it wasn’t actually midnight - because it rhymes. Our neighbors would come over and the parents would hang out and talk while we pelted each other with snowballs. It was really fun! Though I don’t live by snow right now, I’m looking forward to recalling more of the joys of this season. Hopefully there will be another midnight snowball fight in my future.
Growing up in Lake Arrowhead, my favorite memories from Christmas time have always been the snow and cold weather that we would get. I loved the quiet that would come over the forest, and I miss it every winter. Here's some old pictures from some of the snowy places around my childhood home.
This year has gone by so fast, I still can’t believe it’s the holiday season. This time of year is my absolute favorite; it’s a time I always feel especially connected to my friends and family. I remember when I was younger, my family had a tradition that was very simple but so meaningful.
On the first day of December, my mother would take a long candle and mark it so it had 24 sections. Every evening we would light the candle and sit together, reading Christmas stories and talking until one section melted down. As Christmas came closer and closer the candle would get smaller and smaller, until Christmas Eve when we would read the nativity story and let the candle burn out.
I loved doing this as a little kid; it really felt like a magical time. Things get very busy this time of year, and doing something every day to connect with those we love can make all the difference. Sometimes the small simple things are the most meaningful!
Thank you! :)
This fall season has brought me back to so many memories around my childhood and where I come from. Our community has been witness to my reflections and personal process through poetry, song and baking. Most recently, I have brought a Graham holiday favorite to our seasonal potlucks - banana pudding. No matter where we were in the world, my mom would always make sure a bowl of this pudding was present at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My favorite part when I was little was always the cookie and banana layering, which my mom always saved for me to do. I think it also helped that this is a stove/oven free recipe so very kid friendly - worry free dessert. This is the only recipe that I have committed to memory and so I share it with you all after such lovely feedback. Enjoy!
Southern Banana Pudding
Graham Family Version
Two (2) Boxes Vanilla Jell-O Instant Pudding & Pie-Filling
6-Cups of Milk (not soy or pudding won't set)
8 oz Tub of Cool Whip
8 oz of Daisy Sour Cream
6-8 Medium Bananas
1 Large Box of Nilla Wafer Cookies
Thaw Cool Whip Tub if Frozen 4-Hours before desired prep time in fridge
Prep both boxes of Vanilla Instant Pudding according to box instructions (powdered mix and milk). Put in fridge to set for the recommend 5-min.
Once vanilla pudding sets, add 4 oz (1/2 tub) of both the Cool Whip and Sour Cream. Whip together. Taste test. Adjust to preference as needed. The cool whip adds a fluffier texture to the dense pudding and the sour cream helps cut the sweetness. If you add too much cool whip, the pudding will feel more like a meringue texture and will have little flavor. If you add too much sour cream, it will taste sour.
Once pudding base is ready, grab your serving bowl, bananas and Nilla wafers
Take Nilla wafer cookies and line the bottom of the bowl with them in a single layer. The flat part of the cookie should be facing up, curved down. Layer the cookies so they curve up the sides of the bowl.
Peel and cut 1-2 bananas into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices (your preference). Place one banana slice on top of each open faced cookie until all are paired.
Take pudding mix and pour on top of the banana-cookie layer. Pour enough to easily spread over the tops of the layer with the back of a spoon without shifting the cookie-banana layer too much. How thick the pudding layer is before starting the next cookie layer is to preference.
Repeat the layer process of cookie -> banana -> pudding until you get to the top of the bowl or will run out of pudding. On the top layer feel free to crumble some cookie crumbs for aethetics - wait for any whipped cream copping till ready to serve.
Place into fridge to soak preferably overnight and min. 4-hours so that the pudding softens the cookies.
This is a recipe that readily welcomes variations! Some I have seen are switching out the Nilla wafers for Graham Crackers, Lorna Doone's, Teddy Grahams etc., liquer soaking the cookies or bananas, adding vanilla or almond extract for extra kick and sometimes changing the vanilla pudding for banana flavored or coconut if you want a strong fruit flavor. I've also seen people add seasonal flavored whipped creams too like eggnog instead of the cool whip. In other words, its hard to mess up and is just plain good so have fun with it!