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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


‘Dad, this tree won't fit in our back yard’

My father loved Christmas. There were times that we were grumpy (I guess I came by that naturally), but Christmastime was the one part of the year when dad would light up and look forward to staying home and putting up the big tree.
We lived outside of Annapolis, and I guess you could say that we were “that” family. While we kept our jalopies inside the garage, we were always raising hell around and acting like little tyrants.
As an engineer, my dad did a lot of work on our house, and at one point he added a four-car garage to the house, turning the original garage into a family room with 13-foot ceilings. To finish off the room, a wood-burning stove and massive ceiling fan were installed and many a good nights were had between heating up the room and throwing magazines into the fan which was turned on full-blast.
Yes, it was a fun room. Many stories were crafted there, and many a legend born. But among them all, I can honestly say that Christmas was one of the most memorable. My father would at times Clark Griswald the season’s tree and take us out to the ends of the earth to chop down the finest evergreen moderate sums of money would buy.
We would come home with a 10-12 foot pine that somehow managed to get decorated from top to bottom. They were impressive trees, replete with some ornaments dating back to the turn of the century. Luckily, I have a few huge ornamental balls sans hooks that adorn a bowl in my house, and a century-old snowman ornament that is dangling from my own tree as we speak.
Decorating the tree was always a massive undertaking, and we would do everything possible to make sure that all of the kids were home, that any of the midshipmen that we sponsored at the Naval Academy had liberty and could join in and make it a daylong event.
And when these events would take place, mom would always fire up the one-dish meals and prepare for the legions of people that would be flooding our floor space for the day. Lasagna was one of those meals, as it was cheap, could be made in great abundance, and could be left out for the afternoon and into the evening with relatively few concerns. Of course, now that I teach food safety I shudder to think of the goodies that were growing by the time evening came to a close, but no one ever got sick from it. Ever.
And the tree would stand as a magnificent testament to a day’s work, and we would sing carols and break off into the various groups to entertain ourselves; some of us raising aforementioned hell and others a little more restrained.
And when the season was over, we would procrastinate taking the tree down (hmmm, something else I guess that makes me realize that I didn’t fall far from the tree) and one tiny shake of the mighty pine would find countless evergreen needles in the rug. In hindsight, it was a miracle that our 12-foot tinder stick never went up in flames, and for that I am truly grateful.
In our modern world of Internet-fed fear, we see many videos of Christmas trees going up in the blink of an eye, and I for one am glad to have an artificial tree; a nice one. It’s worth not worrying about things as the holiday comes to an end.
But maybe one of these days I can pay tribute to my father and Griswald a tree like the good old days. A pan of lasagna and a fire extinguisher and I think I’d be all set.
makes a 9-inch square pan
8 ounces Ground beef
8 ounces Hot Italian sausage
1/2 Red onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
EV olive oil, as needed
3 sticks celery, minced
1 medium Carrot, minced
2 cup Fresh chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup Dry red wine
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup Blanched spinach
1 box Barilla ‘Fresh Pasta’ lasagna sheets
1 cup Ricotta cheese
12 ounces Mozzarella cheese
8 ounces 6-cheese Italian Blend

1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. Cook the beef and sausage in olive oil until done through, making sure to break it up
3. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot and cook until tender
4. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, spinach and red wine and bring to a boil
5. Add the Seasoning and get a pan ready to assemble
6. In a 9×9 pan, ladle some of your sauce. It needs to be loose because the pasta is dry and will absorb this liquid
7. Add a layer of pasta sheets, and top with a little more sauce, ricotta and shredded cheeses
8. Alternate this until all of the ingredients are gone, being sure to finish with sauce and cheese on the top
9. Spray a piece of parchment paper well and place this side down on the lasagna
10. Cover this with foil and bake until the internal temperature hits about 155-160
11. Remove the foil and paper and finish in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden on the top
12. Serve with a killer green salad to make this the perfect cold-weather treat