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Children's happiness was worth the effort

Christmas stockings were a highlight of Christmas for my five children. My job was to find something to put in those stockings. It wasn't always easy with a very limited budget.

One year, I made little dolls and some clothes for my three daughters. For the boys, I found small trucks. A package with a ball and jacks for the girls, and a baseball for each boy were big hits. Nuts and candy helped to fill up the sock, and a banana was eagerly received.

We always allowed the children to take down the stockings first thing on Christmas morning. Their smiling faces made the extra work well worth the effort.

Tilden, Ill.


Still has stocking after 60 years

My Christmas stocking of 1946 was store-bought, with the price of 39 cents printed on the top. It was bright-red felt with an all-white printed design. It was quite large - about 16 inches long - so it held lots of treasures.

My two brothers, Larry and Jerry, each received a stocking exactly like mine. Mother printed our names on them in beautiful script, so I knew at the age of 8 that Santa Claus did not write the names. I didn't say anything to my brothers, since they still believed in Santa Claus.

Each stocking contained lovely gifts. Mine had a glorious paint set and a book. We each also got a clockwork toy. Mine was a tin cat chasing a tin ball. My 6-year-old brother got a wind-up race car, and my 4-year-old brother got a clockwork monkey. We also got an orange and candy in the toe. I really enjoyed my book, 'Tom Sawyer,' that was tucked in at the top of my stocking.

After some 60 years, I still have my treasured stocking.

Spirit Lake, Iowa


Parents made Christmas special

In 1923, my mother was 6 years old and in the second grade. It was almost Christmas, and her class was making snowflakes and bells out of construction paper to decorate the classroom windows.

As they worked, the excited boys and girls were talking about what Santa might put in their stockings for Christmas. Mom's ears perked up because she had never heard of putting up Christmas stockings and Santa Claus leaving gifts. This sounded great, but her family had never had a Christmas tree, exchanged gifts or done anything to celebrate. She couldn't wait for Christmas Eve to arrive. Remembering the stories of her classmates, she hung her stocking on the back of a kitchen chair.

On Christmas morning, she raced to the stocking to see what Santa had left for her. She found it empty. Since there was nothing, she assumed Santa must have thought she was a bad girl. She was devastated. She was given no sympathy by family members, and she never put up another stocking.

She grew up, got married and had four children; I am the oldest. Mom never lost her love for Christmas, and she and Dad always provided a wonderful tree and lots of presents for us. Mom never had a doll, but she made sure my sister and I had beautiful ones. She made cookies and candy, and Dad always bought fruit, nuts and a coconut.

All of this made our home a Christmas wonderland for four happy children. I have been so blessed.

Puxico, Mo.


Congregation helped brighten holiday

Christmas stockings in the 1930s weren't as fancy as they are today. We used Daddy's rayon knee-high socks. We pinned our names on them and hung them over the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

When we came downstairs Christmas morning, we discovered that those ordinary socks had been transformed into Christmas stockings. I liked to read, so I was pleased to find a 'Big Little Book' in the top of mine one year. Peeking out beside it was a Kewpie doll and a candy cane.

There were small wrapped gifts too, such as a sewing kit, a yo-yo, or a game of jacks. One year I found a miniature tea set in my stocking, and I still have the tiny teapot. Mixed in among the gifts were hard candies, walnuts, pecans and my favorite, Brazil nuts.

A real treat was to find an orange tucked in the toe. Oranges in December may not be special today, but there were no supermarkets then, and fresh fruit was hard to get. We waited until after lunch to open the gifts under the tree.

Since the Great Depression was at its height when I was a child, many men were unemployed. We were fortunate that our father was serving as the pastor of a large Baptist church. The congregation always supplied a Christmas tree for the parsonage, and we four decorated it with handmade ornaments. Mother was an invalid and unable to help us. Daddy would climb a ladder to put the star on top.

Our Christmas was made even brighter by women of the church who put presents under the tree marked 'From Santa,' knowing that Mother could not go shopping. We have never forgotten their thoughtfulness.

Sylvania, Ohio


Green with envy

Jealousy is an emotion we all try to avoid, but even so, sometimes the green-eyed monster still rears its ugly head unexpectedly.

Have you ever felt jealous of someone or something? Did you 'see green' more often as a child than you do today? How did you overcome your feelings of jealousy? Tell us about your green-eyed monster stories.

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.


Cookie exchange is a fun way to get ready for holidays

- Sun-Maid Growers
ASSORTMENT: Chocolate Crinkles, Slice and Bake Currant Cookies, Classic Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, and Raisin-Filled Cookies are fun to make and share.

A rich assortment of holiday cookies makes the holidays more festive. With that in mind, plan a fun-filled cookie exchange for family and friends this year.

Simply invite your friends and ask each to bring one dozen homemade cookies for each guest invited. At the exchange, display the cookies to the delight of your guests. Serve coffee or hot spiced cider and dish out cookies made from a new recipe or two for your guests to sample. Then, give each person a container and have everyone gather and take their assortment of cookies home.

It's a fun way to socialize and prepare for the holidays all at once!


These dainty chocolate cookies have chewy raisins inside.

Chocolate Crinkles

1/2 cup butter OR margarine, softened
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 cup raisins
Powdered sugar

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Blend in chocolate.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl; add to chocolate mixture alternately with milk. Stir in raisins. Cover; refrigerate until firm.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar. Place on cookie sheets. Bake in upper third of oven for 12 to 15 minutes (do not overbake).  Yields 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


These tasty cookies are easy to prepare.

Slice and Bake Currant Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Zante currants

Combine butter, powdered sugar, sugar, egg and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

Combine flour and baking soda. Stir into butter mixture; mix well. Stir in currants. Shape into a 12-inch roll. Wrap; refrigerate until firm.

Heat oven to 350°F. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in upper third of oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on racks. Yields 4 dozen cookies.


These cookies are an old-fashioned favorite.

Classic Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup butter OR margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick OR old-fashioned oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture; mix well. Stir in oats, raisins and nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool on wire racks. Yields 3 dozen cookies.


These fancy cookies have a naturally sweet filling.

Raisin-Filled Cookies

1/2 cup butter OR margarine, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups raisins OR golden raisins
3/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon grated orange peel

Combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into butter mixture; mix well. Cover; refrigerate until firm.

Combine all filling ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly; cool.

Heat oven to 350°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds with cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling on center of half the dough rounds. Cut small circles from centers of remaining dough rounds; place on top of filled rounds. Press edges lightly together to seal. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in upper third of oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets; cool on wire racks. Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies.


A touch of white chocolate complements these spicy cookies.

White Chocolate and Spice Cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 cup golden raisins
4 ounces white chocolate baking pieces

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt; set aside. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Beat in raisins. Gradually add flour mixture; beat on low speed just until incorporated. Proceed to baking, or wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Heat oven to 375°F. Drop dough by tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until set. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute; transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Microwave chocolate in a heavy, resealable plastic bag on high power for 30 seconds. Turn bag over; heat for an additional 30 to 45 seconds, or until almost melted. Knead bag with hands to melt remaining chocolate. Cut 1/8-inch corner off one end of the bag. Drizzle cooled cookies with chocolate. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. Yields 2 dozen cookies.

Substitution: 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice may be substituted for the spices.


Together with God

When my foster son turned 12 a few days before his first Christmas with us, my husband took him shopping for the first time in his life. Armed with a list and $30, he bought the only Christmas presents he had ever given.

His joy was in being able to express his feelings by giving. He bought his birth sister and brother each a toy. He bought my husband a small pocket knife, and he bought me a lovely greeting card. He found one that was a perfect winter scene, and when opened fully revealed three panels of snowmen, Christmas trees and a lovely little town square complete with carolers. I'm not sure how much he paid for it, but to me it was priceless. The caption read, 'Have a Merry Christmas,' and he added, 'I know I will, thanks to you.'

Father, thank You for giving us happiness and the experience of sheer joy by giving to others. May we always share our love with those around us, and help us to experience the happiness of life. Be with us this holiday season and beyond, and bless our young men and women overseas. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz


A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

Christmas stockings have always been one of my favorite things about the holidays. I love the surprise of seeing what's inside mine on Christmas morning, and I especially enjoy looking for things to put inside my loved ones' stockings.

My mother always made sure we had wonderful stockings when I was growing up, and she continued the tradition well into my sister's and my early adulthood. I don't remember what my first stocking looked like, but I remember the ones she made for the four of us (herself, my dad, my sister and me) when I was about 8. They were all different, made out of white, red and green printed material, with our names printed at the top. And they were big enough to hold lots of goodies - candy, small toys and trinkets, even socks and underwear. As we got older, Mom got more creative with her stocking stuffers; she even put scratch-off lottery tickets in our stockings.

By the time we were old enough to be living in our own homes and starting families of our own, Mom had stopped filling our stockings. Then my sister and I had the fun of filling our children's stockings. I always get a little thrill when I find just the right thing, such as a tiny deck of cards or a magnet with a favorite character on it. I keep mental notes of things my husband might need, such as a pocket knife or a small flashlight. I even look for stuffed toys and cat treats for our cat's stocking.

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with joy, surprises and all the things you love.

Merry Christmas!

Kate Marchbanks