Sunday, December 13, 2009

Family Traditions (and Buffalo Chex Mix)

Decking the halls, caroling, cookie decorating, present wrapping, fruitcake, kissing under the mistletoe, Jerry the elf, Jockstrap Barney, and el Matador are just a few of the holiday traditions that make this time of year so special for me. What? You're not familiar with Jerry, Jockstrap Barney or el Matador? Well don't worry, because if you keep reading you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know. WAY more. (Oh, and for the record, I lied about the fruitcake.)

But first, this Buffalo Chex Mix. The holidays wouldn't be complete without a big batch of Chex Mix sitting on the counter to munch on. It's the only time of year that I make it and I'd venture a bet that more Chex cereal is sold during the month of December than the other eleven months combined. And while I really love traditional Chex Mix, this year I wanted to try something different so I decided to go a little bold and make this Buffalo Chex Mix. Frank's Red Hot adds a little zip and heat to this crispy, crunchy snack but it doesn't take it over the top to hot and spicy. Feel free to add a little more than is called for if you want additional heat.

Buffalo Chex Mix (adapted from

4 cups Rice Chex cereal
4 cups Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups Parmesan-flavored tiny fish-shaped crackers
2 cups pretzel twists
6 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 packet ranch dressing mix
2 teaspoons celery seed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In microwavable dish melt butter in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. Add the hot sauce, ranch dressing mix and celery seed. Stir to combine.

Place cereals, fish crackers and pretzels in a large roasting pan. Pour butter mixture on top and stir well to coat pieces. Bake in oven for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Remove from oven and cool mixture on paper towels. Store in air tight container when completely cooled.

Now onto Jerry the elf, Jockstrap Barney and el Matador. (this is where'd I'd click the "x" in the upper right hand corner if you're not a family member because it's going to be a bit like watching other peoples' home movies. By the time I'm through, you're going to want to go home and eat your young.)

When we lived in Ohio I'd decorate the house in pretty much the same manner every year. The carolers went on the wood stove, the Christmas tree went in the front living room, Molly's kindergarten snowman hung from a stick pin on the pantry door, and Jerry the elf stood on building blocks that spelled "Jerry Loves You" on the book shelf in the family room. The building blocks have letters on several of the sides and are supposed to spell out "Merry Christmas," but one particular Christmas at least ten years ago the kids were playing with the blocks and decided to tape a nametag on the elf and rearrange the blocks with the now traditional saying. The entire month of December passed before I even noticed that they'd changed it. I laughed myself silly of course. Every year since, I put the blocks together to spell "Merry Christmas" and someone (and always when I'm not looking) changes them back to Jerry and his love for us.

Meet Jockstrap Barney and el Matador. (I don't even know where to begin.)

Telling you the story of these two traditions is going to clue you in to the true insanity that is my family (brothers and sisters.) For the last twenty or so years we've rented a hall to host our family Christmas party because there are just too many of us to fit into a house. Each year a different brother or sister is in charge of the festivities and makes the decisions regarding games we'll play and how the gift exchange is going to take place. Some years we have a genuine gift exchange with real gifts, but many years we opt for the crazier "white elephant" exchange. Jock Strap Barney made his appearance about 15 years ago and has since returned every year to adorn the gift table. When we first met him he was actually wearing a jock, but in the past few years that's been replaced by a diaper and we're now considering renaming him Incontinent Barney. I'll keep you updated.

The el Matador mug is actually an award given to a male family member who best displays the qualities of (this is where it becomes difficult to explain) whatever it is they want to be qualified for. Some years the winner is chosen because of his lifetime achievements related to bizarre behavior and other years the chosen one is voted in because of hardship or best display of family values. It just really all depends on the year but regardless of reason, the tradition itself has grown to the point of craziness.

The presentation starts with a past winners' processional down the stairs. My nephew, clad in a blue terry cloth robe, then unveils el Matador while everyone sings "Oh Holy Night." Have you figured out that there are copious amounts of alcohol involved?

Every male family member then gives a speech stating why he deserves to be crowned the new el Matador and then we all are given a chance to vote. These are the past winners.

And here's my brother Al, this year's el Matador recipient. Pay no attention to the red headband. We didn't. (Congratulations Al!)

The mug holds exactly 6 1/2 beers and the winner goes around and shares his first drink with all who are in attendance. (I wonder how many of us will be sick for Christmas.)

This year there was also an attempt to get an "ugly Christmas sweater" tradition started. My nephews Mike and Craig look stunning in theirs, don't you think?

Here's the whole motley crew (minus my brother Ken) with our mother. She was able to attend the party for a few hours before the rowdiness forced her to escape back to the quiet solitude of her assisted living facility.

Do you have any favorite family traditions during the holidays? Don't be shy. I mean really, look what I just unveiled about my family traditions.


Amanda said...

OMG you are hilarious!! I want to come to your house for Christmas LOLOL! Is that guy in his bathrobe?? BAHAHAHA

I am totally cracking up, but I also love the sweetness of Jerry and the letters. Such a great post Mags!

HoneyB said...

LOL, I agree with Amanda. We'll be there! Grumpy would fit right in with the men I'm sure of it! ha ha.

We don't do anything crazy. We are boring. LOL

Linda said...

So funny! You really know how to party!
The only tradition we have is watching "It's a Wonderful Life" together. Although I think everyone but me considers it to be torture! My son complained one year that it's a terrible movie because it's in black and white!
(so I bought the colorized one! lol!)

Great post!

Mags said...

Amanda: LOLOL... It's crazy! And yes, he's in a bathrobe. It's part of the tradition!

HoneyB: You'd be welcome here any time!

Mags said...

Linda: We love watching It's A Wonderful Life too. And by "we" I mean me, of course. Hubby tolerates it because he loves

Barbara Bakes said...

Sounds like my kind of family! I especially love the Jerry tradition! Merry Christmas!

Mags said...

Barbara: Merry Christmas to you too! And always remember.... Jerry loves you!

ainkrott said...

Well the secret is out. The world will never be the same.
el Matador had a rough day......

How do you feel about a Hawaiian Christmas next year? Mai Tais anyone?

Mrs. el Matador "Taurus"

Mags said...

Lolly (I mean "your ladyship") I think a Hawaiian theme would be excellent! Can I be Don's Ho? (I totally hope you get that)

evie said...

Our family tradition is going to your sister's Mary and John's house for Christmas Eve. I love your web-site. Great family and friends, we are blessed. Evie

pecintakuliner said...

Great recipes.. hmm yummi

Moogie said...

Mags, Do you need another sister? Your family looks like fun. We also had traditions, drunken brawls, stabbings, bring your mistress to the party. Needless to say, I am happy to keep a thousand mile distance from mine.

Virginia bed and breakfast | Victorian inn bed and breakfast | Romantic bed and breakfasts said...

Wow!! Great post. Our family Loves the muddy buddies!;and never tried the other version, although we've tried a few of the Buffalo Chex Mixes. :) We like to make some of the original up for Christmas time to have something salty next to all those sweet cookies!


June said...

Oh Mags - thanks so much for revealing your deepest, darkest secrets... I laughed myself silly over Jerry, imagined Jockstrap Barney and I'm really jealous and green with envy over all the fun you must have at your family parties. What a great, fun post!

Denise said...

I always enjoy seeing pics of the annual party.

We made the holiday M&M cookies, using soy butter instead of peanut butter since Maya is allergic to nuts. Luis especially like them, and he's the toughest one when it comes to sweets. We like the Coach's Oats as hot cereal, too, so thanks for the inspiration!

Steph said...

I have a crazy Christmas tradition that drives my mom insane. She has some angels and they each have a letter to spell out the word Noel. My dad walks by and changes it to Leon. Mom will change it back to Noel and as soon as he sees she's changed it, he goes right back to Leon. My 9 year old daughter thinks it's the funniest thing ever, but like I said, it drives my mom insane.

stephchows said...

HAHAHAHA I don't even know what to comment on first :D I want in on your family though!!!! Sounds like fun!

Mags said...

Evie: Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting!

pecintakuliner: Thanks!

Moogie: We'd gladly take you on. You'd fit right in!

Virginia: We love the muddy buddies recipe too!

June: We'd take you on too. Perfect fit for my family.

Denise: I didn't know Maya was allergic to nuts. I'm glad that you were able to adapt the recipe using soy butter.

Steph: That's hilarious. I love traditions like that.

Stephchows: LOL... we're so not right.

Karen said...

Hilarious! Sounds like a family who knows how to have fun!

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Too funny! :) Love the Chex mix, too... Have never made it with hot sauce before, but I think it's a fantabulous idea!