ACCM 2015: Santa Claus

Today is the sixth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Santa Claus – and the focus is on . . .
Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others? Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.

Santa Claus addresses parade goers atop a Foley’s canopy after the 1960 Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chuck Farmer, Houston Post

My earliest memories of ‘Santa Claus’ began Thanksgiving Day 1961. Dad took me and my brothers downtown and found a great place for us to watch Houston’s annual Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Either on top of dad’s shoulders or sitting on the curb at his feet, I saw for the very first time — giant caricature balloons, decorative floats, motorcades of all sizes, clowns, marching bands, singers, and much more. At the end of the parade Santa Claus appeared and announced to everyone he was coming soon!

After the parade, I would hear the song, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN everywhere.The idea that he kept a list and checked it twice to find out if I’ve been naughty (I was a little mischief-maker at times) or nice — was something I worried about all the time. Even though I saw everyone’s excitement about him coming to town after the parade, the concept of Santa for me at this young age was suspect — if you know what I mean!

Liv with Santa, 1961

I wasn’t comfortable telling him what I wanted for Christmas the first time we met.The look on my face in my 1961 keepsake photo tells it all! But with each passing year, I found sitting on his knee telling him what I wanted for Christmas got easier. I believed in the magic of Santa Claus until I was 10 years old and was a little disappointed when I learned he wasn’t real. Thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last very long because my parents did a great job making sure I grew up knowing “Santa Claus” wasn’t the real reason for the Advent Season!

Taylor Siblings and Santa, 1957-1963

Click to Enlarge Photo!

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Recipes

Today is the fifth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Recipes – and the focus is on . . .
The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it. Post your favorite Christmas recipe and your memories of Christmases past.

Mom’s 1950’s Mirro Cooky Press

Baking cookies was an expected tradition in my home for the holidays! So when we saw mom pull out her 1950’s Mirro cookie press and cookbook (remember this cooking gadget from back in the day?), it wouldn’t be long before the smell of baked sugar, caramel, and peanut butter cookies would fill the air and have us all heading for the kitchen to sample them!

There were 12 different cookie design disks that came with this cooky press. When I asked my brother, Elgin, which cookie design was his favorite, he said he didn’t have one. He didn’t care what the cookies looked like as long as he could eat them fresh and hot from the oven!

Eating freshly baked cookies was a must for my brother Jon, but what those cookies looked like was very important to him too! According to mom, he wanted all of our Christmas cookies to look like dogs. Dogs?! Yep, that certainly sounds like something my brother Jon would want – LOL! But, trust and believe, mom wasn’t having none of that! So as well as a dozen dog shaped cookies, there were Christmas trees, stars, and other festive shapes associated with the holidays baked too!

Mirro Cooky Cookbook, 1950

I don’t remember having a favorite cookie design growing up. What I do remember was hanging around the kitchen to eat any, and all, cookie dough left in the bowl and on the spoon. Mom’s cookie dough (and cake dough too) was so-o-o-o good! When I asked her about sharing some of those great cookie Christmas recipes with me a few years ago, that is when she informed me that the cookies we loved so much came right from the Mirro cookbook that came packaged with the cookie press (which she still has today) all those years ago!

Looking for a simple, yet fun, Christmas recipe to make with the kids for the holiday? Then check out this cookie recipe from the 1950’s Mirro Cooky Cookbook below.  Enjoy!

Caramel Cookies

Time: 10 – 12 mins
Temp: 375 F

1 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of soda

Cream shortening; add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly

Add beaten eggs and vanilla extract

Sift flour, soda, and salt gradually, then add to creamed mixture

Fill your Mirro Cooky press and form fancy designs on an ungreased cookie sheet (if you don’t have a cookie press, spoon cookie mixture instead on the cookie sheet)

Bake until cookies are a light golden brown; yields 6 dozen

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Music

Today is the third day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Music – and the focus is on . . .
Christmas carols, church music and even more modern novelty songs are all a big part of our Christmas memories. What songs were your favorites as a child and are they still your favorites or do you have new ones? What about your parents or family members – were there certain songs or types of Christmas music played during the season? And how would you describe the type of Christmas music you like? Write about anything related to Christmas music and your memories of Christmases past.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap][dropcap][/dropcap] grew up in a home where different genres of music was appreciated; Christmas music was no exception! And though I no longer own a phonograph or have the old 1960 RCA record player we had in our home, I am just thrilled to have in my own music collection today some of the cherished Christmas LPs my family enjoyed during the holidays!

The Spirit of Christmas with the Living Strings

My mom loves instrumental Christmas music the best! Her favorite album was, and probably still is, THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS WITH THE LIVING STRINGS arranged and conducted by Johnny Douglas. The original LP was released on RCA’s Camden Record label in 1963. Music lovers who listen to this album today say, “it captures the spirit of Christmas – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This album contains 43 minutes of some of the best Christmas music ever produced.” Now that is high praise indeed! But I must admit, it is a beautiful album with an equally beautiful cover. If you would like to hear this album for yourself, visit David Von Pein’s YouTube Channel #2 to experience the whole album in stereo!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

My dad preferred Christmas music performed by popular singers like, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson and others. As a result, one of his favorite Christmas albums was the Pickwick 33’s various artists collection — I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! Pickwick 33, a subsidiary of Pickwick International was launched in the spring of 1965 when they entered into a new deal with Capitol Records for use of their unused back catalog. This compilation LP was probably released during the holidays that same year by arrangement with Capitol Records. I remember some of my dad’s favorites were Caroling, Caroling (Nat King Cole), Silver Bells (Al Martino) and The Christmas Waltz (Nancy Wilson).  My favorite song was, and still is, The Twelve Days of Christmas sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford!

Funky Christmas

Even though instrumental and traditional Christmas music were played a lot in our home, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how “groovalicious” holiday music could be in our home as well! Whenever we needed to add some smooth jazz, R&B, and disco to our holiday playlist, the FUNKY CHRISTMAS album was on the list! This LP was released in 1976 by Cotillion, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Many call this album an audio feast because of artist like sax-man Lou Donaldson, southern soul Margie Joseph, Motown’s Lamont Dozier, and Willis Jackson to name a few. And if you look closely at the album cover, sitting at the piano is bad-boy Luther Vandross! His songs — At Christmas Time and May Christmas Bring You Happiness — are the best!

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Cards

Today is the second day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Cards – and the focus is:
Do you still send Christmas cards or has electronic communication taken the place of this tradition? Do you remember sending Christmas cards as a child – making a list, sending out your family’s cards and then checking the mailbox for cards sent to your family? How did your family display the cards? Write about anything related to Christmas cards and your memories of Christmases past.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hristmas cards in all shapes, sizes, and colors were always on display in our home for the holidays!

We received hundreds of cards each year from family and friends thanks to my mom, who sent Christmas cards to everyone in return. When I asked her recently just how and when did her Christmas card exchange begin, her response was a simple one – “one Christmas card at a time since the early 1950’s!

My mom LOVES to shop! According to her, Foley’s Bargain Basement in downtown Houston, TX had the best after Christmas sales in town. It was during one of those sales where she saw boxes of beautiful Christmas cards for 75% off the regular price. Though money was tight, this sale made it possible for her to buy a box of Christmas cards to share the next year.

Her Christmas card exchange started slowly. When we received a card in the mail, she responded in kind by mailing a signed card back to the sender. Likewise, when someone hand-delivered a card to her (or my dad) at church, the following Sunday she would hand-deliver a signed Christmas card to that person in return. It wasn’t long before her Christmas card exchange went from just a handful of cards to receiving hundreds of Christmas cards – mailed and hand-delivered — each year!

I appreciate mom’s Christmas card exchange very much! As a child, those beautiful, and sometimes funny cards, brought laughter and heartfelt sentiments our way from so many people. And though I don’t send Christmas cards today the way my mom did in the past, I also wait for those after Christmas sales to buy boxes of cards to send the next year too! Below are just a few of the Christmas cards purchased last year that I’ll be sending out this year!

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: The Christmas Tree

Today is the first day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – The Christmas Treeand the focus is on . . . 
What are your memories of your family putting up the Christmas tree? Many of us come from different traditions: some people won’t put up their tree until after Thanksgiving or even on Christmas Eve? Some like live trees and actually go out into the woods to cut their own while others prefer the convenience of an artificial tree.

Liv at Christmas, 1960

Putting up the Christmas tree was always a special event in my home during the holidays. Since my Mom loved the way a live tree made our home smell, it was a yearly ritual for my dad to bring home a real pine, or fir-tree, for us to decorate.

I recently called up my mom who is 87 years young, to ask if she knew if dad actually cut down the trees he brought home for us to decorate. She burst out laughing and said rather loudly, “are you kidding?!” As she continued to laugh me right off the phone, it became clear that any fanciful visions I had of dad with an axe in hand looking for the perfect tree to chop down was simply . . . out of the question.

Regardless of how my father came by them, there were live Christmas trees in our home each year by December 16th. Why December 16th? According to dad, keeping a live tree in good condition from December 16 to New Year’s Day was a lot easier than caring for it from Thanksgiving Day through the New Year. Once a Christmas tree starts drying out, they lose their vibrant color and the pine needles become brittle and hurt like crazy if you happen to collide with them as I did daily!

The size of our Christmas trees varied over the years as did the type of trees we had in our home too! During those lean years when money was scarce, our live trees were small and a bit scrawny. Okay, I guess I understand why mom was laughing so hard at my question as I look at the Christmas Tree dad brought home to us in 1959 below (LOL)! But, when life got better for us, our live trees were full, large, and even taller than the Christmas tree photographed in 1982. However, once all the Taylor children were grown and on their own, my parents simply preferred to set up their artificial table-top Christmas tree you see in the 1987 photo and would have their grandson Marcus trim it for them!

(Click the photo to enlarge)
Taylor Family Christmas Trees

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”