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Eichers gather as one big family for holiday

This is my final column of 2013. It is the Friday after Christmas. We had a nice, enjoyable Christmas Day. We made a big breakfast casserole the night before with the ingredients being scrambled eggs, shredded potatoes, onions, green peppers, diced cheese, bacon, ham, and then topped with sausage gravy.

On Christmas morning, we put it in the oven to heat while we opened gifts. Everyone was happy and excited for their gifts. Although it is exciting to open presents at Christmas time, may we always remember the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus, our Savior, was born. After all the gifts were opened, we ate breakfast, or more like brunch. Then the dishes were washed while Christmas carols were sung.

The rest of the day was spent playing games, enjoying new gifts and just relaxing. What a nice family day all to be together. Snacks also were enjoyed, and goodies given from the neighbors. Later, we had a light supper of grilled cheese sandwiches.

At 8 p.m., Timothy and Mose left for their homes, bringing the well-spent day to a close here at the Eicher household.

The following day, everyone was home to clean up the house, burn the boxes and wrapping clutter, and wash laundry.

Next week on New Year's Day, we will get together with sister Emma, Jacob and family and sisters Verena and Susan, and our family and Timothy and Mose at Jacob's house. The 21 of us exchanged names for a gift exchange that day.

On Sunday, our church will have the annual Christmas potluck, so the holidays still are in full swing for us.

My husband Joe is smoking deer jerky in the smoker right now. He mixed up 16 pounds of it yesterday. He also mixed up 25 pounds of summer sausage from the venison meat. Mose brought us the deer. It was the fourth one he shot this season. We really appreciated the meat. Joe has cut up a lot of nice steaks from the deer. Son Benjamin, 14, was along when the does were shot, so he was excited. He said they saw a lot of deer. Mose's family lives on a big farm, so there are a lot of deer.

Daughter Verena left at 8 a.m. with some friends to go to a friend's house in a community about an hour and a half from here. They plan to stay until Sunday and possibly attend church in that community. It's still hard to believe she is old enough to be with the youth group. The youth from our church plan to go Christmas caroling tomorrow night.

My good friend Lucille from Dayton, Va., sent me a cookbook from their community for Christmas. I was excited to receive it as I love looking through cookbooks getting new ideas for recipes. Try this recipe on one of these cold winter days.

Cheddar chowder

2 cups water

2 cups diced potatoes

1âÑ2 cup diced carrots

1âÑ2 cup diced celery

1âÑ4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt

1âÑ4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large kettle. Boil 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, make white sauce. Stir sauce into undrained vegetable mixture. Heat throughout.

White sauce

1âÑ4 cup butter

1âÑ4 cup flour

2 cups milk

2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup cubed ham or fried bacon crumbs

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add flour and stir until smooth (approxiately 1 minute). Slowly add milk while stirring. Cook until thickened. Add grated cheese and stir until melted. Toss in ham or bacon.