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FROM THE Delta TO THE Coast: A Holiday Tradition Lives On.

When Kimme Hargrove moved from one corner of the state to the other, she took along her touch of holiday cheer. The Jackson native was living in her husband James' hometown of Greenwood when they welcomed their first child in 2012. Looking to establish holiday traditions, Kimme did what Kimme does best.

"My oldest and dearest friend Molly had kids before me," says Kimme. "She had a children's holiday party and always invited me. When I had my daughter, I was inspired by her. Ina small town like Greenwood, there aren't a lot of opportunities for people to take their kids to see Santa."

That year would mark the inaugural Hargrove Santa party in Greenwood, a tradition that would continue for years to come. "The morning of the Santa party in 2012, when Mary Kathryn was only six months old, I was just feeling off," she laughs. "I found out early that morning that I was pregnant with my son, and then I had to go throw a party!" That day started what would become a longstanding tradition for her quickly growing family.

Kimme invited friends and their children to meet Santa and indulge in her homemade sweets, and, sure enough, it was a hit. "People thought I was crazy because there was a ton of red icing and my house was white," she says. "But it was so much fun, and the kids loved bingeing on nothing but sugar!"

With an unintentional culinary background and a laidback style, Kimme makes a great hostess. "I was a double major in biology and chemistry," she explains. "I'm not a trained chef, but I love cooking. Following a recipe and figuring out how to make the most of ingredients is basically chemistry."

Kimme says she gets her love of entertaining from her mother, Mary. "Effortless cooking and entertaining have always come naturally to her. She spoiled me in this way. I became an adult and realized I didn't know how to make anything."

So Kimme set out to learn to be a little more like her mom. It turns out; she was also a natural and would go on to teach cooking classes at The Viking Cooking School in Greenwood and dream up the beloved Delta Supper Club.

After that first year, families in the Delta began to look forward to the Hargrove Santa party, and it became a local tradition. But in 2016, Kimme's husband James found out he would be transferred to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for work. "I absolutely did not want to go," remembers Kimme. "I loved my life in Greenwood. We had to be there by January 1, 2017, and waited until December 30, 2016, to move."

For their last Christmas in the Delta, despite packing and moving across the state, Kimme was determined the party would go on--and in style. "There was no way I wasn't having the party. I sent out invitations, and people kept asking me if I was completely crazy."

Since the Hargrove household was in the process of being moved, Kimme held the party at Turnrow Books in downtown Greenwood and went out with a bang. "It was great! Santa came and read a book, and the kids all wore their pajamas, which has now become a tradition."

That first year in Ocean Springs, Kimme only knew a handful of people. "One of the only people I knew had a welcoming party for us," she says. "That day, I met people that would become very dear friends of mine. They just let me walk into their lives, and the rest is history." Pleasantly surprised by her new community, where she's now the culinary curator at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center, Kimme began making plans to bring her favorite holiday tradition to the Coast.

Pajama-clad children and their parents now descend on the Hargroves' waterfront home in Ocean Springs in mid-December each year. They bend the ear of Santa and get elbow deep in "reindeer food." "I just take staples out of my pantry like cereal, dry oatmeal, crushed-up potato chips, and always glitter," explains Kimme. "The kids come in and fill a jar with whatever ingredients they want and save it until Christmas Eve. People tag me on social media or send me pictures and videos of their kids excitedly spreading out the reindeer food on Christmas Eve. It's one of my favorite things."

Pulling simple touches together is the secret sauce to Kimme's entertaining philosophy. "Everything I do for this party is so effortless, but you put it all together, and people think I've been working on it forever," she laughs, referring to the fact that everything she serves is homemade. "I've ordered cookies or cupcakes before, and it's just not my style. The beauty of this party is that it's relaxed, homespun, and simple."

The kids go home, on a sugar high, with holiday treat bags in hand--just like Kimme likes it. She takes great pleasure in providing a great time for those she loves, and her holiday party is the perfect example. "It makes me happy to see other people happy. Seeing people have a good time makes it easy to decide that this is where I want to put my energy."

Reindeer Food Bar

The Reindeer Food Bar is the simplest piece of this party! Simply find matching 'small' containers to hold ingredients. Hargrove uses things from her pantry. Anything that can scoop into a container will work.

Use creative labels: any Cereal-Cereal Strength, potato chips-Super Power Bits, red glitter-Christmas Cheer, green glitter-Sparkle Dust, chocolate chips-Energy Chips, oatmeal-Oats, coconut-Foodie Flakes, and Confectioners' sugar-Flying Powder Power.

Simply place all ingredients on a table with scoops or spoons. Provide small mason jars for each child to create their perfect mix. Give instructions to save the reindeer food until Christmas Eve, then sprinkle in the yard or driveway to show the reindeer the way to their home. Add a tags that reads: Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight, The moonlight will make it sparkle bright. As the reindeer fly and foam, This will guide them to your home!
CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT COOKIES

Have fun with these and get creative with all of the
Christmas decorating options!

2 (12-cookie packs) White Fudge Covered Oreo cookies
(seasonal)

1 (16-ounce) pack almond bark

1 (7.6-ounce) Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Assorted Garnishes: mini sugar pearls, mini M&M's
holiday sprinkles and crystals

If desired, use milk chocolate bark and white chocolate
mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Lay parchment paper across counter. Melt bark
in microwave on defrost at 30-second intervals
until melted. Using small tongs (or a fork to dip),
gently grasp cookie and dip into melted bark,
carefully allowing excess chocolate to drip off.
(Garnishes will cover tong marks.) Gently tap
against side of bowl to remove excess chocolate.
Immediately attach a Mini Reese's Peanut Butter
Cup to the 'top' of the cookie as an ornament
hanger. Sprinkle and decorate using your
toppings of choice. Repeat until all cookies are
dipped and decorated with an array of Christmas
garnishes.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

REINDEER COOKIES

1 (16-ounce) family-size pack Nutter Butter cookies
1 (16-ounce) pack almond bark
1 (1-ounce) bag twisted pretzels
7 (42-ounce) bag milk chocolate M/M's

Melt almond bark in the microwave in 30-second
intervals, stirring in between, until fully melted.
Spoon melted bark at top of a cookie and
gently press a pretzel in place for antlers. Add
M&M eyes and a nose. Let dry on wax paper
before serving.

Yield: 32 cookies


Caption: ABOVE, LEFT AND RIGHT: Kimme, James, Mary Kathryn, and James III celebrate the season with their beloved family tradition. Using sweet treats and decor from around her house, Kimme set a table full of holiday sweets and treats.

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Reindeer Food Bar is one of Kimme's favorite traditions. The children can make their own concoctions to add to the excitement of Christmas Eve. Using ingredients from her pantry, Kimme set the stage for the perfect reindeer food mix. Super Power Bits were concocted out of crushed up cereal. Christmas "ornaments" made of chocolate-dipped Oreos accented with colorful candies kept little guests fueled for more fun. A variety of truffles on various trays were the fixings for a truffle bar. Raspberries filled with white chocolate were easy to make and provided festive holiday color. The Hargrove kids pause for a picture with their grandmother, Mary.
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Article Details
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Author:Wells, Amanda
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2019
Words:1406
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