Wrapping up Christmas

Whew! Just finished a whirlwind 4+ days of kids and food and music and food and hugs and food and laughter and food and … food … and …

Our three boys and their loves came in for Christmas – we’ve got the ‘relative rotation’ going quite nicely so that each year they all are scheduled to come in together for either Christmas or Thanksgiving. The holiday of the off-year is really quiet, but the at-home holiday is just grand! The boys and their girls are so comfortable with each other it is just so fun to be a part of their banter and horse-play. I know there will be a time when one of them can’t make it, but I really do love their being here.

The music was in the form of our playing (my love) and singing (both of us) for four services during Christmas Eve and Day. ‘Twas lovely, but a lot of work, too, when you count in all the practices and the extra time needed to set-up, take-down and generally be prepared.

The food – well, what can I say? After all, it IS Christmas! 🙂 I did my bit of baking, the Historical Society paid their debt to my love with their annual pile of cookies, two sons brought in huge amounts of cookies and goodies sent graciously from their respective in-laws, and various other relatives and friends and presented themselves at the door with goodies in hand. On top of that, we’ve had huge festive feasts for dinners (with copious leftovers) and great amounts of tasty cheeses to keep any stray hunger pangs at bay.

The hugs and laughter were a common part of it all. We all got silly and loud. And lots of good memories were shared.

The kids are all back in their respective homes, we’ve washed the last of the sheets and remade the beds and found the stray coffee cups. Signs of Christmas are still around with the tree and decorations and a few wrapped gifts under the tree for other family later this week, but it is a lot quieter. Their presence is still felt, even if all their things are gone.


The baking bug bit! I didn’t expect to be doing much baking for the holidays this year, but…

For many Christmases I’ve made a dozen or so different cookies and kolachies (a sweet yeast roll with nuts or poppy seed filling – yum!) as well as the traditional gingerbread cookies that get decorated to the hilt. There was also a cookie exchange to get me going and in the mood. We really didn’t need to have so many cookies as the Historical Society usually blesses my love with a basketful of cookies in exchange for his taking care of the yard of the local historical building across the street from us. We would have plenty of cookies to see us through the holidays – and then some! Nothing quite beats a treat of Christmas cookies in the heat of summer. 🙂

This year they dropped the cookie exchange at church. And the Historical Society hasn’t been seen – one of their leaders died this past year and I’m thinking the cookies have been forgotten.

Well, I got to thinking of various baked good needs that were coming up: the Quilt Center wanted to celebrate the season before breaking for the holidays, our music group at church would need some sort of gift from us, and my siblings Christmas gathering would require something brought along.

Wound up making two different flourless cookies for the Quilt Center (one of the directors can’t do gluten). For the church musicians, a double batch of …. well, I hate to call it fruit cake because that conjures up too many memories of bad candied citron – whatever it was supposed to be. What I make is on the order of lots of fruit (dried cranberries, apricots, dates, raisins, mangoes, canned pineapple, applesauce) and walnuts held together with a bit of cake dough.

And for my family gathering, because I ran across the recipe while looking up the other ones, an applesauce bread that my Mom used to make. Very dense and moist and loaded with dates and nuts – and applesauce. What I remember best about the bread is the ‘hard sauce’ icing that was used on each slice. Mom wasn’t a drinker, but she always added whiskey to the icing for this particular bread. And for a kid, that was really special!

I’ve always heard about wrapping a baked product in cheesecloth soaked in some alcohol, so I thought I’d give it a try. My love had some Southern Comfort in the house, and with his blessing, I’ve got four of the breads wrapped in some pretty heady cheesecloth. They will only have a week to sit and soak in…hope that is enough time!

The only other baking yet to do will be when the boys come home. Gingerbread cookies have been a tradition with them – my love does the mixing and cutting out of the cookie shapes and the boys do the decorating. I get to be the official oven timer. Started when the oldest was two and we received a tin cookie cutter in the shape of a man’s silhouette complete with top hat. Haven’t missed a year since then. Each year the decorating gets more wild as the decorating options change. Some of the cookies wind up with more sprinkles and gumdrops than dough. If nothing else, it makes for a grand time around the kitchen with everyone having fun and being blissfully creative.

Hmmmm, I might yet do some kolachies. And maybe some pizelles. And we don’t have any Russian tea cakes, either……

Good Things

Finished another book on tape: Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley. One of the Easy Rawlins mysteries, this one starts as the riots in Watts end. Good read with a very good reader, Michael Boatman.

The trip to Mali is growing! Actually, the trip is still the same; the number of people going with us has grown to 8. I’ll be getting into major list making and packing mode after the holidays – too much going on right now to think about it much. Besides, with all the kids coming home for Christmas, there won’t be any available space to make piles.

I am way more excited about having all three boys and their loves here for Christmas than about the trip. It is always such a joy to have them around. The boys have a wonderful way of “bouncing off each other” that I love – and miss from when they were growing up. And the girls fit right into the mix. They are all so comfortable with each other. Couldn’t be happier with this bunch!

So far, the “relative rotation” for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is working out. Sure hope it continues. I expect there will be a time when someone won’t be able to make it home for the appointed holiday – and they will be missed. For the moment, though, I’m going to enjoy the present of their presence.

Hot Water

I was in heaven today. Or at least, close to it.

My friend L had called last week to set up a time to meet before the holidays. We hadn’t seen each other for a while and the prospect of getting together with her was a pleasant one. We met for breakfast and then I went in to the Quilt center for my hours of volunteering.

Afterward, I wound my way through the countryside to her residence. All sorts of lovely Christmas and holiday decorations were scattered around the house, in and out. We exchanged small gifts, filled plastic cups full of ice and water, dropped our clothes and headed for the hot tub on her back patio.

Hot water is a wonderful thing! Hot water with pleasant conversation and sips of ice water is even better. I have this thing for sitting in hot water. I think it stems from my mother making her baths so hot she looked parboiled when she got out. She certainly soaked all her tensions out. And that is my goal, too, whenever in hot water.

The outside temperature was almost balmy and the sun was out. We didn’t solve any major problems of the world, but did discuss a bunch of them.

After sufficient pruning up, it was back to the real world of rush hour traffic and figuring out what to have for dinner (I forgot all about the eggplant – darn!). For the brief time in L’s hot tub, the world was good. I’m still feeling the soothing effects – think I’ll head in early tonight!


It seems my creative juices are coming out in the kitchen at the moment! Something to do with spending lots of time in front of the computer inputting all my receipt info from this past year so as not to have to deal with it when I get back from Mali….. (Yes, I know, it would be a whole lot easier to take care of this each month. I’m just not that motivated during the year!)

Tonight’s dinner was a curried butternut squash and carrot soup with celery, onions, garlic and broccoli. Also added some olive oil, sour cream and chicken broth. Two teaspoons of curry powder gave it just a bit of a zing – could have used more. Served with bacon biscuits (some of the leftover bits from yesterday) and cornmeal biscuits. Very decent! And very filling.

Now, tomorrow….. I have an eggplant I need to use…… Too bad I’ll be out of the house most of the day.