MV Obsession

My obsession with Martha's Vineyard.. phototography..genealogy and life in general and this and that…

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Stollen …

What is stollen ?  According to, stollen is a sweetened bread made from raised dough, usually containing nuts, raisins and citron.  In our family it is a bread, a tradition,  a couple of days of preparation, trips out of town and fear !!  My husband l-o-v-e-s stollen more than almost any other food.  His German mother made them every year and stollen was very much missed the Christmas after she died.  The following year, Deb, a poor but creative  college student decided to surprise her dad and make him stollen as her present to him.  She and her best friend Dawn did the prep and baking at Dawn’s house so that there wouldn’t be any signs of her surprise at our house until the unveiling on Christmas.   Please CLICK HERE to read DEB’S BLOG POST of that fateful first foray into making stollen.

There it sits… unassuming and rising in its bowls.

Look at it, it’s massive.  Inside the bowl are tons of candied fruit… fluorescent green cherries and unnaturally red cherries, glowing yellow lemon thingies, tons of raisins, tons of butter  and I’m not sure what else.  But in my husband’s opinion there’s never enough fruit… he’s one of the handful of people worldwide who actually like candied fruit.

After rising overnight Deb shapes them into loaves.  Just look at all that fruit.  And then the scary part begins.  Remember  I mentioned trips out of town and  fear and you probably wondered why?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Stollens and ovens don’t always get along…  the oven has been known to bake the stollens to a beautiful golden brown on the outside and leave them a mushy, yeasty mess on the inside.  For Deb the actual putting them in the oven and waiting to see what disaster ensues is the worst part.  By baking time she’s tired and really just wants it to be over with.  She has a very even and joyful temperment… usually… but on stollen day it has been known to flare up… a lot.  The best thing for all of us is to NOT be around.  One year my husband went to FL and I went to MA.  Another year we went to Martha’s Vineyard for the Christmas in Edgartown weekend.  Well, we tried to, we got as far as Woods Hole but a pesky nor’easter/blizzard prevented us from getting to the Vineyard and so we had to come home.  The past few years she’s started them on one night and then baked them the next day… but still we are out of the house for at least most of the day. So there they sit waiting to be baked.

… let’s see how they did.

They’re beautiful aren’t they.  They seem to like the new oven and the oven was good to them.  Stollen day is over for another year… yippee.

Besides making stollen for her dad, Deb makes sure there’s some for her aunt and cousin too. All the stollens are now wrapped up in baggies and in the freezer waiting for Christmas.

Actually all the stollens aren’t  in the freezer.  There’s a small preview one for breakfast the next morning.  It looks yummy doesn’t it.

Breakfast is ready.

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Vineyard Childhood Christmas …

To my recollection there is only one time in my life that I spent Christmas on the Vineyard.  I was probably around 5 or 6 and my mother and I went to MV to be with my godparents.

Edward and Gertrude Norris (Nana and Pop) were my godparents.  They lived part of the year in their house in Oak Bluffs which is where I spent my childhood summers.  The other part of the year they lived in Newark, NJ downstairs in the same house we lived in.  They were the most important people in my life besides my parents.  They  never had children of their own and they thought of us as their family.  I’m not sure of the actual connection to them except that Nana was my grandmother’s best friend when she moved to the Vineyard and when my mother graduated from high school on MV she moved to their house in Newark, NJ to find work.

And so one Christmas when Nana and Pop were elderly, having health problems and living year round on the Vineyard and missing us my mother decided she and I should go and spend Christmas with them.  I was too young to realize this might be the last Christmas for one or both of them, all I knew was that I was going to wake up Christmas morning ON THE VINEYARD.  How great would that be.  The only glitch was that my dad couldn’t get off work to come with us but he insisted we go.  Talk about being torn.

I seem to remember there was a dusting of snow on Christmas morning… even if there wasn’t, it’s my memory and I can enhance it a tad if need be.  There were presents… one in particular I remember because I asked for it every year.  A nurses kit.  It was a white square box with a red cross on the side.  Inside were band-aids, gauze bandages, a wooden thermomenter and a stethescope, a name tag… and the most important article.. a nurses cap.  I spent the most of the morning bandaging people up whether they wanted to be or not.

All of a sudden I heard a faint knock on the front door !! I ran to open it and let out a shriek… it was my dad standing there with a big smile and a shirt box.  A shirt box !! Yes indeed that’s all he had with him.  No suitcase.  No duffle bag.  Just a shirt box with a couple of clean shirts and other essentials inside it.  He liked to travel light.

It turned out to be one of the most wonderful Christmases of my childhood.

Just a few months ago I found this letter that my Pop had written to me for my 6th birthday.  After Nana died he pretty much lived alone except for the two summer months we spent with him.  I loved to listen to his stories of working on the steamships in Massachusetts and later being a bank guard in NJ.  Pop couldn’t walk without the aid of a cane and even then couldn’t walk far, certainly no further than the front or back yard. Almost everyday we’d have our lunch together under a tree in the backyard and then in the evening we’d listen to the radio together.  He liked programs like ‘The Shadow’ which scared the bejeebers out of me and made it hard for me to walk down the dark and seemingly endlessly long hall to my upstairs bedroom.   The hardest part of my summers was saying good-bye to him… I wouldn’t cry in front of him but the tears spilled out of my eyes the moment we left the house.  I still find it sad and emotional to leave the Vineyard and I’m sure those moments from long ago have a bearing on it.

I am blessed to have the memories of that one Christmas on Martha’s Vineyard and of Nana and Pop, two people who were such an important part of my life.