Sabotaging Christmasby Terry McLaughlin
Some families share holiday traditions that foster warm and wonderful memories. My four siblings and I shared some rather eccentric approaches to the season, with spying and sneaking near the top of the list.
Each year, our efforts to spoil our own Christmas-morning surprises escalated. On the rare occasions our mother left us unsupervised at home, we'd climb on chairs or shelving to search every corner of every storage area in the house, trying to find a gift cache. No matter how clever our parents were, we'd usually find something--with the exception of the one year our father kept our presents in the locked truck of his car. And no matter how we threatened each other to keep our discoveries secret, our mother usually found out we'd sneaked a peek--and then the presents would disappear, making us fear that Christmas as we'd known it might disappear, too.
My mother couldn't stand secrets or surprises any more than the rest of us, so she spared us the agony of waiting until Christmas morning to unwrap gifts from distant relatives. Anything that came in the mail got opened the day it arrived.
On Christmas Eve, we children would make a pact to wake in the middle of the night for a flashlight preview of coming attractions. One of us would rouse the others, and we'd all tiptoe toward the tree, terrified of being discovered out of bed, to investigate the goodies beneath the branches. Of course, by Christmas morning we were usually too tired to enjoy all the things we'd already figured out we were receiving.
I sometimes miss the old pre-Christmas spy games. They added an element of suspense to the season.
Here's a recipe for a delicious treat I discovered at tea in Australia last year. Mmmmmm--enjoy!
CHOCOLATE CARAMEL SLICE
1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 Cup dried coconut
2/3 Cup self-rising flour
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" square cake pan. Stir sugar, coconut, and flour together; add butter and mix. Press mixture into prepared pan using back of a spoon. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly risen. Set base aside to cool for about 10-20 minutes (while making caramel). Leave oven on.
2 Tablespooons butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
14 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
Place butter and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 9-12 minutes, until caramel thickens. Gently spread caramel over base. Return to oven for a further 10-12 minutes (a bit of lightly browned caramel should form around the edges). Allow slice to cool to room temperature.
5 ½ oz milk or dark chocolate, melted
Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally (or melt the chocolate in the microwave). Spread melted chocolate over caramel.
Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20-30 minutes. Remove slice from pan and cut into pieces, using a hot, dry knife (fill a tall glass with hot water, dip knife in water for a few seconds, wipe dry with a clean towel). Store slice in an airtight container in the refrigerator.