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Family has loads of fun making funny snowman

My husband and I enjoy building a snowman with our two children, Kristy and Nicholas. It is most fun when we get inventive. Since no one keeps coal around any more, last year we used black plastic spoons to make the eyes.

We broke off small branches from the trees to use for arms. The kids laughed when we put mittens on the end of the branches to give the snowman hands. We used spray paint to make a big, funny mouth, and we tied a jacket around his neck to look like a muffler.

We always build the snowman near the road, because the kids want the drivers to see it as they go by.

Clarksdale, Mo.

Blizzards meant parties and no school

Something about winter that stands out in my mind are blizzards.

Living in Iowa, we can always expect a few bad blizzards every year. When my children were young, we had 'blizzard days.' If we were having a blizzard, we would listen to the radio to see if school would be canceled for the day due to the storm. When our town was listed as having no school, we had a 'blizzard day.'

The main rule of the day was no work, only fun. That included everyone, even me. We didn't make the beds, do the dishes or anything that would be considered work. We just had fun! We played table games, baked cookies or made candy. Usually the next day, the blizzard was over.

School would start two hours late so the snow plows could get the streets open. After the kids left, I cleaned up the mess from the day before. I didn't mind doing it, as I had just as much fun making the mess as the children did.

My children are all married now and have families of their own. When they hear I'm having a blizzard here in Iowa, they call and reminisce about the 'blizzard days' we used to have.

There was another blizzard event that started in my neighborhood after my children had all left home. One of our neighbors was the commander of the American Legion. One evening, the Legion was scheduled to have state officials come to their meeting. They had made a lot of munchies for people to snack on after the meeting.

However, a bad blizzard hit, and the state officials couldn't get here. The people in town also couldn't get to the meeting because the streets were impassible. They had all this food, and it wouldn't keep, so they called all the neighbors two blocks south of them to come to a blizzard party.

We trudged over through the snow and had a good time playing table games, visiting and eating. There were people of all ages there. About midnight, we decided to call it a day and head home. It was still snowing and blowing hard outside, and there was so much snow in front of the door, we couldn't get out.

We tried to get out through the garage door, but it was blocked, too. The men finally got the overhead door up, and the snow was about waist deep. We worried about venturing out, but decided to go as a group. We walked in the middle of the street, where it wasn't quite as deep.

As we got to each person's home, we stopped and waited until they were safely inside. When we finally got home, we called the neighbors who had hosted the party and told them everyone was home, safe and sound.

We had so much fun that night, we decided to have another blizzard party the next year. We did this for several years, with everyone bringing a snack and a table game to share. We had fun at the annual parties, and luckily the weather was never as bad as it was that first year.

Estherville, Iowa

Snow ice cream really hit the spot

One of my favorite things to do during the winter months is to make snow ice cream. I grew up in southeast Missouri during the Depression, and we always had snow ice cream when it snowed.

Mother would go to the back porch, where we left our milk to cool, and skim off a couple inches of cream. She added milk and eggs she had saved for a pie or cake, put in sugar and vanilla, and beat it all until it was smooth as silk.

While she was doing this, my brother and I ventured out to get the clean, white snow. We brought it back, and Mother would dip big spoonfuls and add it to her mixture. She put enough snow in for the consistency of ice cream. We would fill our bowls, go sit by the wood-burning stove and eat until we were miserable. Back then, nothing could be better.

That was about 80 years ago. I still make snow ice cream when it snows, which isn't very often in Arkansas. If I have some left over, I fill cartons and put them in the freezer. Sometimes, we have snow ice cream for the Fourth of July. My 92-year-old husband thinks that's a treat worth having.

Paragould, Ark.

Let's talk family fun, entertainment

What did you do as a family for entertainment when you were growing up? Did you play games, listen to the radio or watch television? At supper, did everyone tell about their day? Did you play an instrument or sing, or have family nights? Did these traditions last with your own family - or did you make new ones? What about your children's families?

Tell us your stories about family entertainment. Send your letters by Feb. 6 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Keep these ideas in mind for easy wintertime entertaining

It's time to celebrate the winter season by sharing a meal with family and friends. These delicious recipes are surprisingly easy to make, and they will impress guests without keeping you tied to the kitchen. With these entertaining ideas, you can simply sit back and wait for the doorbell. For more great recipes, visit www.Pillsbury.com.

Brown Butter Creamy Apple Pie

1 deep-dish pie crust (12-oz. package), frozen
½ cup butter or margarine, divided
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1½ teaspoons vanilla, divided
5 cups peeled, sliced tart green apples (about 5 medium)
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
½ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Unwrap pie crust from packaging and set aside.

Place a cookie sheet in the oven and heat oven to 400°F.

In a 1-quart saucepan, cook ¼ cup butter over medium heat until melted and lightly browned, stirring constantly. (Keep remaining butter cool in the refrigerator.) Cool melted butter completely, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat ½ cup granulated sugar and egg with a wire whisk until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 tablespoons flour and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in melted butter. Gently stir in apples. Pour into frozen pie crust.

In a medium bowl, stir together remaining flour, remaining sugar, brown sugar and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon. With a pastry blender or a fork, cut in remaining butter (from refrigerator) until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle mixture over apples in pie crust.

Place pie on preheated cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.; cover edges of pie crust with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning, and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cool for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, remaining cinnamon and remaining vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spoon mixture onto cooled pie. Yields 8 servings.

High Altitude (3,500 to 6,500 feet): Increase second baking time (at 350°F.) to 50 to 55 minutes.

Deviled Crab and Cheese Biscuit Cups

¾ cup whipped cream cheese spread
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper sauce
1/4 cup finely shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup garlic and herb bread crumbs
3 cans (6-oz. each) white crab meat, well-drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 can (16.3-oz.) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 16 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.

In small bowl, mix cream cheese, lemon juice, pepper sauce, cheese, green onions, paprika, bread crumbs, crab meat and celery until mixture is well-blended.

Separate dough into 8 biscuits, then peel in half to make 16 biscuits. Press or roll each biscuit into a 5-inch round. Firmly press 1 round on bottom and up sides of each muffin cup, forming a ¼-inch rim over edge of cup. Place 2 tablespoons crab mixture in each cup.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until filling is set and edges of biscuits are golden brown. Sprinkle each cup with chopped parsley; lightly press into filling. Remove biscuit cups from pan and serve immediately. Yields 16 servings.

Biscuit Bread Pudding

12 frozen buttermilk biscuits
8 eggs
4½ cups milk
²/3 cup sugar
²/3 cup raisins
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
Caramel topping, warmed, optional

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake biscuits as directed on package. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, generously spray 12 (10-oz.) custard cups or 12 (4½-by-1¼-inch) disposable foil tart pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, sugar, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla; mix well. Cut biscuits into 1-inch cubes. Add to egg mixture; mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Divide mixture evenly among custard cups.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set. With a knife or a metal spatula, loosen edges around cups; slide onto dessert plates. Drizzle with warm topping, if desired. Yields 12 servings.

High Altitude (3,500 to 6,500 feet): Follow high altitude directions on package when baking biscuits. When beating together raisins and other ingredients in egg mixture, gradually stir in ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Timesaving tip: Bake biscuits up to two days before preparing the pudding. After they have cooled, store in a sealed food-storage plastic bag at room temperature.

Garlic, Cheese and Tomato Bread Bites

1 package (10-count) white dinner rolls, frozen
1 container (6.5-oz.) garlic and herbs spreadable cheese
1 tablespoon diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon diced, pitted black olives
1 jar (8-oz.) marinara sauce, warmed

Heat oven to 375°F.

Remove rolls from package; let thaw for 10 minutes. With your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each roll.

In a medium bowl, combine cheese, tomatoes and olives. Place 1 tablespoon mixture in each indentation. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 17 minutes, or until tops are light golden brown. Serve with warmed marinara sauce. Yields 10 servings.

A Letter from Kate:

Dear Readers,

When I think of winter, many special thoughts come to my mind, so I would have to say that my favorite thing about winter is the memories.

As a child, I had fun playing in the snow with my siblings and friends. My brother, sister and I had a wooden sled that we took turns riding. We also played Fox and Geese, had numerous snowball fights and built our share of snowmen. When we got too cold and wet, Mom would fix us hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

My mom loved to bake. I can remember the house being filled with various aromas, such as chocolate chip and sugar cookies, apple pie, coffee cake and brownies.

I remember my dad shoveling snow off the sidewalks and driveway, sometimes coming in from the cold caked in snow. He would take off his outdoor clothing and stand by the heat register to warm himself.

One of my favorite winter memories is when we'd gather all the candles in the house, place them in candleholders on newspapers in the middle of the living room floor, turn out all the lights except the ones on the Christmas tree, sit around the candles and sing Christmas carols.

My memories of winter would not be complete without recalling the year I spent in Nome, Alaska. The ground was covered with mounds of snow for more than six months, the sky would dance and drip with the Northern Lights, and I'd gather with my friends for food, games and conversation.

When the first sign of winter arrives, I can enjoy looking back on those precious memories while looking forward to making new ones.

Happy New Year!

Kate Marchbanks

Together with God:

The word 'snow' scares some folks, but I actually have been disappointed with the last few winters - they didn't bring enough snowfall. The arrival of snow may not be as exciting as it used to be for me, but it's still one of my favorite things about winter.

I enjoy the changes of the seasons - the heat of summer fading into crisp mornings and the warmth of a heated house. When we were children, our mother would warm the kitchen by hanging a blanket across the entrance. Enclosing that warmth in one room was a blessing. We children scurried from our cold bedrooms into that homey room.

Each winter is more exciting than the last, because each is so different. I can do without the ice, but I love the smell of burning wood from a fireplace. I like winter foods, too. My mother makes the best vegetable soup in the world, and I can prove it, too. She puts love in hers.

I guess that's the thing that I love about winter more than anything: the love that turns each moment into a warm memory.

Father, Thank You for Your love and the beauty of each season You give us. Help us through winter and protect us from the cold. Protect the homeless and less fortunate from the blasts of winter. Amen.

D. Susan Rutz