, , , , , ,

Christmas in the Parks

My husband and I have been visiting our state parks here in Missouri, and state parks across the country for many years. They provide invigorating hikes, exciting wildlife viewing, and interesting and enlightening nature programs. We have also discovered that they are fun to visit as we travel to enjoy the Christmas season.

To escape the pressures of daily life,  to get away from the news, and to get a head start on our Christmas shopping, we recently traveled to Galena, Illinois. Galena is a small town in northwestern Illinois (you will find yourself only about 15 miles from the Wisconsin border).

While enjoying our weekend in Galena, and in an attempt to get me out of the stores, Jim discovered that Galena is also home to the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site. The home was built in 1860, and presented to the Grant family in 1865 in gratitude for his service in the Civil War. The family lived in the home until Grant was elected President in 1868. After his election, he visited the home infrequently, but maintained it as his voting residency.

On the particular weekend of our visit, it was open for tours…and it was decorated for the Christmas season in the manner in which the Grants would have decorated while they lived in Galena.

This weekend, we again ventured out. This time we were on our way to Hermann, Missouri to visit the Deutschheim State Historic Site. Hermann is the center of Missouri’s wine country, and so we planned on visiting a couple of wineries, too.

Deutschheim State Historic Site was established to preserve the heritage of the German immigrants who moved to east-central Missouri between 1820 and 1860. They became the residents of a new town, Hermann, founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia on 1,000 acres of farmland along the Missouri River. The crop these Germans introduced to the area was grapes, and the product they made was wine. When you visit Deutchheim, you will see some vines that are over one hundred years old, vines that helped establish the wine producing industry which is still expanding across the state. Wine is serious business in Missouri, and I can personally tell you that it is well worth your effort to experience some of our state’s great wines.

This particular weekend, Deutshheim was celebrating a Weihnachtsfest, or Christmas celebration. We toured one of the homes, decorated for Christmas, and enjoyed traditional cookies that would have been made for the Christmas celebrations of the German immigrants, including lebkuchen, chocolate lebkuchen, springerle, and pfeffernusse. They also had a display of springerle molds and rolling pins, and many of these were for sale in the gift shop. I am German from both sides of my family, and these Christmas traditions so reminded me of watching my grandmothers make springerle and lebkuchen. If I was not in the spirit before visiting Deutschheim, I certainly am in the Christmas spirit now.

One of my favorite scenes in the house was this Christmas tree, hung from the ceiling with wire. This method of putting up the tree not only saved space, it also kept little hands out of mischief.


I also enjoyed the “real” Noble fir tree set up in the parlor. It is the type fir that was the inspiration for the “feather” trees so indicative of German Christmas tradition. It was decorated with traditional scherenschnitte ornaments (I am so German, I spelled that correctly on the first try!).

Other areas in the house were also ready for Christmas…

And then it was time for lunch and a visit to a couple of wineries…

You can find out more about each of these sites we visited by visiting their websites. Galena has a visitor guide website at http://www.visitgalena.org. You can learn more about Deutschheim at https://mostateparks.com/park/deutschheim-state-historic-site.

I would encourage all of you to check out your own state parks and historic sites this Christmas season. You might be surprised at the magical Christmas events they have to offer. Merry Christmas to all…and to all, good traveling!


Turkey with Lemon Garlic Sauce

This is one of the very best ways I have found to use some of that leftover turkey from the holidays. It is easy to make, does not take much time, and is perfect for those evenings when you are busy, want to get dinner on the table in less than an hour, but still want a special and delicious meal.


  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 1/2 c. turkey broth*
  • 1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, crisply fried and crumbled
  • 2 c. turkey, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 c. half and half
  • 1/2-1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the garlic. Saute over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the flour, cooking for 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the turkey broth, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and simmer on medium for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the bacon, turkey, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and the half and half. Simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until everything is warmed through.
  5. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice, either is great!

*I make my own turkey broth from the bones of the turkey. If you do not have turkey broth, chicken broth will do fine in this recipe.