Pastor King Smith and his wife, Robbin, may be a long way from “home,” but this couple long ago learned to call wherever they may happen to be at the moment “Home.”
The Smiths moved to Boone three years ago when King accepted a call to be pastor at Cornerstone Church. Natives of Spokane, Wash., they have lived in Oregon, California, Wyoming, Utah, and spent several years raising their three children in Colorado.
Iowa may be far removed from their roots, but it’s a place they have learned to love. At Christmas time and throughout the holiday season, their new friends in Boone truly become their family.
“When we were growing up you had Christmas with whoever was with you, and then it was over,” King recalls. “Now we notice that people go to each separate family and have Christmas.”
The Kings prefer to keep it simple. With their children grown and living in Colorado and Texas, the couple enjoy a quiet Christmas morning with just the two of them. For Christmas dinner, they have started a new tradition of getting together with another local minister and his wife, who also have grown children living in other parts of the nation.
“We kind of alternate hosting Christmas and Thanksgiving with them, and it’s a very nice day,” he says.
The foods tend to be very traditional; turkey, stuffing and all the fixings — just as it was when they were children in Spokane.
Robbin recalls that Spokane was always very snowy winters and she particularly enjoyed going downtown to see the animated displays in the department store windows. When she and King married, she also learned a few family traditions from his mother, Florence Smith.
“My mom always made this fruitcake, and most people don’t like fruitcake, but it was really a different kind of fruitcake,” King recalls. “It’s lemon based, rather than darker.”
Eventually, Florence passed the recipe down to Robbin, who would soon learn what an effort it really was to make the fruitcake.
“It takes a lot of stirring, and I found that it’s really expensive to make; so you can understand why she made it as part of our gift.
“There’s so much stirring you feel like your rotator cuff is going to break,” King jokes,
Robbin has made the cake a time or two for her own children, and they enjoyed it just as much as past generations.
While it has been a few years since the couple has made the cake themselves, they are happy to share the recipe.
From the Smiths
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1 small bottle (1.5 oz) lemon extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 lb. walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 lb. candied cherries, chopped
1/4 lb. candied pineapple, chopped
1 can of coconut, optional
This recipe will require a lot of stirring.
Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add the lemon extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
Combine the fruit and mix with one cup of flour mixture to keep it from settling to the bottom of the pan.
Fold all ingredients into the cake batter.
Spray a loaf or stem pan with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper.
Cook slowly for one and a half to two hours in a 300 degree oven
The Christmas house
With a home they designed for all the “treasures” they already owned, Todd and Sue Woolston go all out for Christmas. Their home sparkles in holiday finery, but what Sue enjoys most is being together with the couple’s children and extended family whenever possible.
For the big Christmas meal at the Woolston home, Sue says it helps a lot that just about everyone brings a dish to share. One of her favorites is one that her own mother has been making for years.
“My mom makes a wild rice dressing every year,” Sue says. “I don’t make it, because to me it’s a lot of work. But it’s just not complete until we have our dressing.”
She is happy to share this recipe for wild rice dressing from her mother, Linda Gebert of Paullina.
Wild rice dressing
From the Woolstons
Simmer 1 cup or less margarine with 1 chopped onion and chopped celery until tender, about 15 minutes. Pour over 1 package dry bread cubes.
Add 1 can cream of chicken soup and then add water until moist, about 3 cups. – Let set.
Cook 1 package Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Wild Rice as directed with 2 cups wild rice. Do not use seasoning. Add to bread. Add 1 tablespoon sage, and pepper to taste.
Put in greased casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Making their own traditions
With one older son, one younger son, and quads in the middle, Grant and Mary Gustafson are parents who seldom have time to think about themselves. This busy family works together to make the holidays a special time, paying homage to both old family traditions and making a few new ones along the way.
While turkey is the No. 1 main course for most every holiday, Mary enjoys varying the menu and giving each holiday its own unique flavor.
“We decided to make our own tradition,” says Mary. “We have turkey for Thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas and leg of lamb for Easter.”
The family includes oldest son Scott; quads Jarred, Jordan, Sarah and Jacob; and youngest son Brenton.
Brenton, now a freshman at Boone High School, looks forward to putting up the tree and decorating the home with the rest of the family.
“We have a secret Santa every year, and we draw names out of a hat and secretly buy presents for each other,” Brenton explains.
He even has a preference for who gets his name in the drawing.
“I always hope that Jarred gets my name because Jarred usually spoils me on Christmas,” he admits.
And he also tries to make sure to do right by the person whose name he gets in the drawing.
“Honestly, I am one of the better gifters,” he says with a grin
Grant and Mary also enjoy teaching the kids simple ways to enjoy the holidays.
“We always hope that we still have some broccoli and sage in the garden by the time Thanksgiving gets here,” says Mary. “That’s our tradition to pick it fresh that morning and make it part of the meal.”
The sage leaves are woven under the skin of the turkey to create a tasteful pattern in the flesh. The broccoli is steamed and served fresh on the table.
When it comes to holiday treats, just about all the family agrees that homemade peanut brittle and fudge are at the top of their lists. Mary also enjoys mixing up her own brew of chai tea. Sipping a cup together is a quiet way to relax, watch the twinkling lights of Christmas and simply savor the holiday together.
The Gustafsons are happy to share recipes they have found for some family favorites.
Chai tea mix
From the Gustafsons
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
*2 teaspoons vanilla powder
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. In a blender or food processor, place one cup at a time and process until the mixture is blended and the particles are fine.
To serve, add two heaping tablespoons of the mixture above to a mug of boiling water and stir to mix well.
*If you can’t find vanilla power, mix 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with some of the sugar until blended and dry. Then process with remaining ingredients with blender or food processor.