n I was a kid in Michigan, my favorite aunt and uncle, Doris and John, lived in the same town we did. My cousin, Gayle, was one of my best friends, and we spent hours playing Barbie and Clue, and reading Alfred Hitchcock and Nancy Drew mysteries.
   Most of my mother's family, all nine brothers and sisters, lived in the Detroit area, so that meant lots and lots of cousins. We would get together at Christmas at John's house because he lived in the biggest house that would hold that many people.
   He owned an old Jeep, and at some point when we were all together, he took the kids for a sled ride. We gathered up all the sleds, saucers and anything we could sit on, tied a rope to the back of the Jeep, and John pulled us all over the back of his property, sometimes several of us at one time, lined up along the rope.
   When I think about it today, I can't imagine that any of our parents let us do that, but what fun it was then! If you were the last in line, you could really work up some speed when he turned the Jeep. The boys always vied for the end position since they were the daredevils. The girls would scream, and if I was on the end, I usually ended up letting go of the rope because I got scared.
   Many of my aunts and uncles are no longer with us, even a few cousins are gone, and the family has scattered to all ends of the country. My cousin, Gayle, still lives in the Detroit area, though. I hope she remembers those family Christmases at her house as fondly as I do. I hope she remembers that her dad delighted his nieces and nephews with his wild Jeep rides.
   This Christmas I got out some old black-and-white photos of Christmas at John's house, and found a photo of my Uncle Mike dressed as Santa, handing a present to a 3-year-old me in my ruffly Christmas dress and black-patent Mary Janes. I sat by the Christmas tree and spent some time remembering each member of my family, and tried to recapture the magic of a child's Christmas.
   It wasn't hard to do. Those memories live on in my heart.
   With New Year's parties coming up and football games to watch, I'm including a recipe for a different kind of cheese spread, popular in the South for some time. I've seen versions of the recipe in several cookbooks and newspapers from down that way.
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte. She's jealous that her family in Arkansas had snow for Christmas and we didn't! Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. "Cooking from the heart of Oregon"
   Southern Sin
   Plan ahead - needs to chill. Recipe may be cut in half.
   4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (16-ounce package)
   2 cups mayonnaise (Best Foods)
   1 cup finely chopped pecans
   3-5 green onions, chopped, green and white parts
   1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
   Seasoned salt and garlic pepper to taste
   Ritz crackers
   Mix together cheese, mayonnaise, pecans, green onions and Tabasco sauce. Add seasoned salt and garlic pepper to taste. Make sure everything is blended together well. Cover and chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve with Ritz crackers.
   Makes a bunch.
   Adapted from a recipe in "All Our Best," Baptist Memorial Medical Center Auxiliary, Little Rock, AR.
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