The lady in the grocery store. There she stood staring at me as I lifted off the shelf the King Arthur unbleached flour. “I won't buy that foreign flour” she announced. I said it was made in the USA.

The lady in the grocery store. There she stood staring at me as I lifted off the shelf the King Arthur unbleached flour. “I won’t buy that foreign flour” she announced. I said it was made in the USA. “No, it isn’t. King Arthur was English” she emphatically stated. Well, at least she knew that, but apparently the poor thing couldn’t read what was printed on the flour sack: employee-owned and manufactured in Vermont. Perhaps she didn’t realize Vermont is a state in the USA. Education can be a powerful tool.

We are all about to exit 2018. Was it a good year for you? Are you making plans to travel in the New Year? Do it. Traveling lifts one up and away from mundane schedules, routines and familiar places. A new awareness arrives as you, the voyager, cross into unchartered territories. “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Dalai Lama.

On our way to celebrate Christmas in Tulsa we stopped at McDonald’s on Turner Turnpike, the oldest turnpike in our state of ten turnpikes. During the 1947 to 1951 term of the 13TH governor of Oklahoma, Roy Turner, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was established and construction of the 88 miles of turnpike between OKC and Tulsa began. The turnpike opened for business in 1953.

Turner Turnpike only has one barrier toll plaza outside Stroud. To date, tolls in Oklahoma are among the cheapest in the country. Five service areas with Howard Johnson Restaurants and Phillips 66 gas stations used to serve the turnpike traffic, but they are all gone. Now the McD-EZ Go Gas Station combo and one eastbound station handle travelers.

The Oklahoma wind was strong on Christmas Eve. The McD drive-through lanes were closed. A parking lot light and pole had snapped off at it’s base and were resting on the roof directly above the drive-through window. Being a person who prefers to get out of the car and walk, it was rather funny to hear irate people complain about how inconvenient it was. The counter help tried to hide their amusement. Several customers had to actually move their bohunkuses out of their vehicles and face the wind in order to buy food other people at work on Christmas Eve had graciously fixed.

Our Christmas Eve is a traditional affair handed down through the family from grandmother, mother, daughter and now sons. Oyster stew was always served, but oysters in Oklahoma were often hard to come by. My mother improvised and switched to clam chowder, either prepared at Red Lobster or other times from scratch. Tonight we enjoyed homemade clam chowder accompanied by pizza, sliders, fresh veggies, dips and sweets.

Let’s watch a Hallmark Christmas special. I love those sappy, uber sweet made-for-TV movies with an over-abundance of Christmas decorations and cookies, tons of fake snow and a love scene that usually goes awry. No way. Nada. Nein. Nyet. Non.

So, why not see a Christmas movie. How about the 1947 classic “Miracle on 34th Street” with Edmund Gwenn as Santa. Trivia: Fred Gwenn, son of Edmund, was Herman Frankenstein in the CBS TV series “The Munsters” which aired in the 1060’s. I did not know Frankenstein was the son of Santa. Nope, no “Miracle.”

What about the 1994 movie “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen playing Scott? Originally the movie, written by two comedians, began in a darker vein. Scott shot Santa on the roof because he thought Santa was a burglar. Santa handed Scott the card and died. Scott’s kid exclaimed ‘You just killed Santa.’ Scott replied ‘He shouldn’t have been on the roof when he wasn’t invited.’ Disney did not like having the movie begin with a murder, so Santa was directed to fall off the roof after being surprised by Scott. No Santa Clause movie.

The 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was playing during the afternoon on one TV channel. Snow in movies produced before this film was composed of cornflakes painted white. The drawback: cornflakes were so crunchy the audio had to be dubbed over to eliminate the cracking sound. In ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ a new more realistic type snow (water, sulfite, soap flakes and sugar) was created. It was so much quieter. Good thing since the movie was filmed during a summer heat wave. No Wonderful or Jimmy Stewart or Clarence the angel.

My next idea had a British accent. ‘Arthur Christmas’ was released in 2011 and has become one of my favorite Yule-time flicks. Quick repartee and great animation set this movie apart from others. The family came on board with this 3-D, CG movie. We found places to sit and watch the story unfold about the futuristic high-tech North Pole, Grandsanta, Santa, Santa’s two sons, Bryony the elf who was a wrapping wizard…..and all the reindeer who found their way back home to the North Pole.

Our happy pre-Christmas festivities ended in a short jaunt to serenade friends with two Christmas songs we had rehearsed on the way. The way back was through neighborhoods of dazzling lights and illuminated trees.

Christmas morning was mild and clear. Santa had come. Presents and stockings soon had no secrets. Breakfast was a leisurely affair. Yuletide greetings to missing relatives were made. Early afternoon, the trip to an uncrowded Gathering Place was the perfect way to get fresh air. Families were scattered through playgrounds or walking the paths.

The Whole Foods Christmas meal was pre-cooked. Years before my mom and I had tried this short-cut to cooking. That meal from the grocery store was memorable because it was barely edible. As the trays of food were emptied into Pyrex pans to be warmed, it appeared the chef was very fond of Brussel sprouts. Four trays of maple-roasted sprouts with pepitas were tucked in the box along with three packages of multi-colored finger potatoes with garlic and parsley, two containers of green beans, two cartons of creamed spinach and kale, and the piece de resistance: salt and pepper boneless prime rib roast with green peppercorn sauce. Within a half an hour we were at the table digging in. So fast, easy and, this time, tasted great.

Rocco (the Labrador) sat on the floor, watching us eat. When we finished, he too was given a special plate of meat and veggies. Darkness was descending as the traditional coconut cream pie was served. Time to travel home.

“Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Buttuta.

What a lovely Yule.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.