Merry Christmas! Yes, I am blogging on Christmas morning. Does Shelley have a life, you wonder? I do. Really. But all through the house, not a creature is stirring . . . and it seems like a good time to wish all my constant and dear readers a Happy Holiday. Last night, my family stayed up late to watch A CHRISTMAS STORY which is running 24 hours straight on one of the cable tv stations. We then switched over to WHITE CHRISTMAS with good ol’ Bing Crosby that was running 24 hours straight on another cable tv station. These are probably the only two shows I’ve watched on a cable tv station in the last couple of months. I hate cable television. Happily, my husband is giving me the best Christmas present ever . . . he’s canceling the cable in March.
I’m sorry, but 600 channels of nothing is a big, fat waste.
Like I need more distractions, anyway. Let me tell you about my Christmas experience this week. On Monday I was at the library doing my usual volunteering, when one of the librarians sighed and said, “I just can’t wait until all this Christmas is over,” in the way people do when they’ve burned out on the holiday stuff. The other librarian gave a short laugh and said, “Me too.” I chimed in with an honest, “Not me! For some reason this year I’ve really enjoyed the whole Christmas thing.” They looked at me sideways, incredulous. “Well, what’s your secret?” I shrugged. “No idea. Except I’m just not stressing about getting stuff done, not trying so hard to make it magical, just letting it happen.”
Ha! Three days later and I’m suddenly realizing we’ve eaten all the cookies I baked, I still have date balls to throw together, quiche to bake, presents to wrap, and my allergies have hit for some ungodly reason so I’m stuffy, wheezing, and bubble-headed from the antihistamines. What do I do to compensate? I tell myself that everything is going to be fine, turn on my “Crooners” Christmas cd, and make a list.
Wednesday morning, and things started out okay with no indication of the craziness to come: My husband is on vacation, so we went out to breakfast. Nice, but probably not smart since it wasn’t on “the list.” Still, we enjoyed great food and service at The Peppermill, as usual, and we were charmed to see a bright red fishing shack already pulled out onto the smooth, new ice on Sokokis Lake. I ran into the village market to pick up a few (cartful) of last-minute groceries and baking supplies, and chatted with the guy who was stocking the Squire Mountain tub cheese. Click on the link to read about the company. Squire Mountain was started in 1996 in Fryeburg, Maine, and I asked the guy if it was still made locally. He grinned behind his wire-rim glasses and said, “My wife and I make it.” I said, “I served this at my last ladies’ craft night. The cheddar kind.” He said, “You have to try the new one, Garlic & Herb.” So I grabbed a small container and a package of crackers. It is delicious . . . and local.
So I went home and commenced to baking. Well, melting and stirring and burning and cursing is more like it. I tried to make date balls. I’ve made them before with no problem, but a few things were working against me: an old pan I picked up at a yard sale this summer, my bubble-headed state, and too many things running through the bubble-headed brain. While waiting for the egg/sugar/date mixture to boil, I decided I should water the Christmas tree before it dried out and burned the house down. From beneath the fragrant branches of the balsam fir, I smelled . . . scorching. Ack! Sure enough, the mixture had some to a boil and burned completely black on the bottom. Apparently the old pot had been burned-on before, making it much more likely to scorch again.
I took the goop off the stove, dumped it into another pan, and hoped nobody would notice the slight smoky flavor in the date balls later on. In went the rice puff cereal. I buttered my hands, reached in to form a ball and . . . nothing. It wouldn’t stick. About this time I realized I had forgotten to add the melted butter and vanilla. I quickly added those ingredients and stirred them in, but that greasy butter didn’t help. Frantic, I did what all good cooks do when they get into trouble with a recipe. I called Mom.
She sympathized, but didn’t really have any suggestions other than, “Well, can’t you just eat it like it is?” I thought, “With what? Spoons?” But I just wailed and said, “I’ve gotta go. I’m getting nothing done and it’s already 1 o’clock!”
Keep in mind that I’d already missed a)my dentist appointment on Monday (woke up at 3 am on Tuesday and said “oh s%$%!” and b)missed my friend’s daughter’s violin recital on Tuesday (woke up at 3:13 am on Wednesday and said “oh s%$%!”). My brain was definitely on vacation. My hands attempted to take up the slack, but, alas, the results weren’t good.
So, I dumped the date ball mixture AND the pan into the trashcan and started chopping cranberries for cranberry bread. I’d already made some small breads to take to the neighbors, so I figured this would go smoothly. It did, for the most part, except when the bread was in the oven baking, I relaxed with a cup of coffee and jumped onto the computer to catch up on my email. Which wouldn’t have been a problem except I forgot it was a school day . . . and forgot to pick up my daughter at the bus stop!
Those of you who know me are probably gaping at the computer screen right now. I’ve given up job opportunities fearing I’d miss her bus. It’s a sign of how discombobulated I was that my irresponsible parenting didn’t even faze me. By the time I headed out in the truck, she’d done the right thing and hitched a ride from a neighbor. When I got back into the house, I looked at husband and child and said, “You go shopping without me. I need a nap.” I think the two days of 3 am waking had taken it’s toll (plus don’t forget the allergies and antihistamines.) I think my husband was slightly afraid to leave me home alone with a stove, but he manned up and took the daughter to Cabela’s and Pizza Hut while I napped. By the time they came home, I’d roused myself enough to wrap presents. I guess we’ll find out this morning if I managed to get the right tags on the right gifts.
Finally, I’d accomplished something. Oh, yes, the cranberry bread came out okay except I tried to wrap it too early and it broke in half. No problem. I sliced it up and stuck the slices on a plate.
Did I mention I was still working on a handknit, felted bag for my mother? I finished that up and stuck it in the washing machine on the hot/cold setting. When I took it out, it had felted up beautifully. I lovingly placed it out in the mudroom in front of the electric heater, hoping it would dry enough by the next afternoon so I could wrap it before my parents arrived. It did.
My Christmas Karma was back to normal.
Thursday, Christmas Eve: My mother brought date balls and gingerbread cookies, so I could concentrate on the Christmas Eve dinner: fish chowder, spiral ham, sweet potato casserole, sour pickles, and cranberry bread. There was tub cheese and crackers for appetizer along with some dates stuffed with fresh goat cheese from Downhome Farm that Laura gave me when I went to pick up my milk. The table sparkled with my good crystal and the fancy dishes I bought back before my wedding (at Mardens, where my mother also found my wedding gown, something nobody can believe.) With jazz on the cd player and cheerful hearts, we sat down to enjoy our meal. It couldn’t have been nicer.
So that’s my Christmas horror story with a happy ending. I also wanted to share this year’s most unique gift idea. Laura also suggested this one, and it worked out just fine. I purchased her first emu egg of the year, blew it out, made a bacon/cheese quiche, and presented the quiche and beautiful, dark green egg to my artist friend, Sandy. I thought she might like to paint the egg. Here is a picture of the egg.
I leave you on with wishes for a Merry Christmas, dear Reader. And remember, it’s not about the gifts or the food or the tree, not really. It’s about family and friends and the darkest days of the year passing and the light coming back to the world.