Category Archives: holiday mood

my recipe for celebration

The month just passed isn’t a month I dread, but I’m never quite prepared for it, either. Every year as December approaches I know things will get crazy; I also know things will be fun. Plans for meals and parties at our home and the homes of others will fill our calendar — we the geeky homebodies will become gadabouts.

The day or so after Thanksgiving, I always get the notion that this will be the year I’ll write and send a Christmas letter. But when you birth both your children the week that begins December 20, you don’t produce a Christmas letter. Even the year your daughter gets married, the year you really should, you know, conform to the tradition of getting out a holiday missive by post, you wake up December 19 and realize it just isn’t going to happen. So you sigh, imagine a nebulous January mailing, and finish wrapping presents.

My son’s birthday is the day each year when I begin to enjoy things. This time — after being sick, having injured my shoulder, and having seen both of my parents through back surgeries 11 days apart (my brother and sister-in-law were here, helping immensely) — was no exception. I’ve now gratefully experienced our family’s twelve days of happy things. Last night marked the preparing of bonbons. These are chocolate peanut-buttery goodies that the aforementioned sister-in-law, Lynn, gave me the recipe for several years (10? 12?) ago. They have become the only “baking” I do for the holidays, probably because I don’t get time or energy to make the first batch until just before a New Year’s Eve party we attend with friends who used to work with Tim. How many years has that tradition gone on? Let’s just say it started long before the kids were old enough to make their own plans for New Year’s.

Tim and me partying last night

Tim and me partying last night

Bonbons in process.

Bonbons in process.

In lieu of a Christmas letter, below is my recipe for bonbons, complete with the gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives I have found over the years. I also now strive to use organic powdered sugar, since it’s often available. This year’s semisweet chocolate chips came from my mom via Costco; they contain chocolate liquor, sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla.

Peanut Butter Bonbons
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or 2 cups almond meal/almond flour)
1 cup butter (or 1 cup Earth Balance/Smart Balance)
2 tablespoons shortening (Earth Balance also makes this without hydrogenated oil)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups (about 1 12 oz. package) semisweet or milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix powdered sugar and cracker crumbs (or almond meal).
Heat butter and peanut butter over low heat until melted; stir into crumb mixture. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat chocolate and shortening until smoothly melted.
Using tongs, dip balls into chocolate until coated. Refrigerate until firm.

Happy New Year!

Christmas stalking

A Christmas post has been on my mind, ever since we returned from a week-plus in Seattle, visiting family and friends, staying in my brother’s cool house. Richard and Manny live beside the light rail station, from whence you can whoosh toward downtown, where interesting sights abound.

Since we came home, though, I haven’t had time to goof off on the Internet in normal fashion. (I pop in and “stalk” folks on Facebook — as my activity has been described, though I prefer to say I “lurk”.) This can be seen as positive, especially when fullness of heart and soul are the cause. Lovely developments in our lives continue. Messy processes, too, as is normal fashion for reality. But mostly much to brighten the season.

One evening last week I sat down to clickety-click a few bloggy words, but then the doorbell rang. Through a dark living room I groped, finding the front door, while another insistent dingering sounded. My surprise knew no bounds at the sight on our step — Uncle Timmy!

...and my hubby says I can't talk without gesturing...

He sent himself this year, from Ohio, as an in-person Christmas card. I love that he did. We went out to Sizzler. Salad bar, a few engineers “partying”, and the two Tims catching up. What could be nicer?

Now’s the time to send Greetings of the Season, and so I offer good wishes to each of you from my heart. I hold in thought a mama we saw up north, who is great with child and pondering Advent in ways I well remember, from 26 and 22 years ago.

I count it all joy to have the love and respect of the people who raised me, and of those whom I raised.

There are those who put up with me with great, forbearing love. This is the way of our Messiah, who is our King and our God, become Man for our sakes.

What could be nicer?

freebie

Because my days have been brimfull, I haven’t posted a post in a while. Am hoping to amend that soon, but in the meantime there’s a free Kindle download of Saying Goodbye available, here. A present from Dream of Things books (until the promotion ends at midnight).

What I’d like to do is share why I was Saying Hello in this living room in Seattle. Maybe before Christmas the time for words and more pictures will present itself.

Meanwhile, may your days shine, or if they’re dullish, may there be reflections (which often hold more depth, longer, as the times of our goodbyes and griefs often do).

dazzle in the dark

A cold December morning it is. And goodness and mercy are around me. Dark, dark days and bright, bright lights. Wowee lights, as my son used to call them, when we would drive around to see twinkles on the houses.

One place a few blocks down we’ve dubbed the landing strip. The homeowners there simply revel in glitz, in what we consider overkill. You know where you are, though, definitely, when you turn off River Road. Bedazzled, you know you’re almost home.

For years we visited Spokane whenever possible for Christmas, because Tim’s parents lived there. Snow was usually an accompaniment. The whole town was whiteness-brightened. Twinkle lights looked greeting card stylish. But I suppose the contrast didn’t strike me as starkly there, due to less gloom.

May your days be truly merry, gracefully bright, as we step afresh into longing for that good thing to be revealed.

If you need something to read this weekend, I’ll be a guest on Saturday at Arlee Bird’s blog, Wrote by Rote, memoir-related essays my theme. Looking forward to some holiday travel across the Internet!

threes

Sick today, mostly.
Am recovering well.
Friend tissue box.
Raggedy coughs annoying.
Voice on vacation.
Silence is difficult.
Family: joyful, away.
Two church communities.
Same faithful celebration.
Home: Ben Hur.
My favorite Heston.
Old movie slowness.
Still, wonderful story.

Three days wondering.
Drama: skies, hills.
Saddest tale, except,
inevitably, finally, healing:
he is risen.

holiday shamble, pretty all right

It’s Christmas time, and time for a little gratefulness, joy, and humility on my part. A holiday is a holy day – for me this holy “day” always lasts two or three weeks. For good or ill, the ordinary workings of life slip to the sidelines, as my family celebrates the birthdays of two children along with the birth of a messiah.

Did you know that “messiah” (Hebrew), or “christ” (Greek) means anointed one? The kings of Israel and Judah were all messiahs, anointed with oil to carry on the birthright handed down from Saul and then David and then Solomon.

By the late first century B.C., the kingly line had become obscure and unnecessary, because the Jews lived under the rule of Rome. The people descended from Isaac and Jacob had in many ways shifted their allegiance from a personal ruler to the authority of their Law, Prophets, and Writings (Scriptures), which they might call, in a shorthand way, simply The Law or The Writings.

In the prophetic portions of the Jews’ now ancient written works were statements about a particular Messiah. This one would be the man who’d fulfill God’s promises to David regarding one of his sons. He would be the most real Messiah, if you will. As a part of ordinary life, Jewish people spoke to one another their desire for that One to arrive and rescue them.

Jews today still look for his arrival, but a few of them, and a passel of Gentiles, say he was born to a lowly couple who set him in a manger bed. Later, those parents presented their first-born son, according to custom, to God in the temple. And while they were doing so, an old woman and an old man praised God for letting them live long enough to see the promised, final Messiah in the flesh. Those oldsters were pretty jazzed.

I’ve been bummed to a degree about my previous post. In it I wanted to share overflowing good sensations about a freedom I was given ten years ago. I guess I might better describe the release I received as permission to worship God by shifting my allegiance from traditional rituals to the Writings that I consider to have authority. (I include with the Jewish authoritative writings the ones known as four Gospels, a bunch of Epistles, and an Apocryphal tome or two.)

What came through last post, I think, was my love for the group wherein I found this scripturely freedom. I’ve been jazzed ever since I met these folks, because nobody in the “congregation” worries when I ask questions about the biblical writings. On the contrary, they’re encouraging me to do so. It’s what this group feels it’s about – coming to the ancient texts we think are from God with a willingness to explore and discover what the original authors meant to say in them – it’s an attempt to set aside individual assumptions in search of truth. And sometimes it feels as though this journey is “where no man has gone before.”

However, I find I can’t express myself about “my group” without sounding and being at least a bit smug. I’m sensitive to other people’s smugness about their groups. I’ve been Pharisaical all my life, and one of their bad points was thinking they were all that. Any religious group’s assumption that “My God’s better than your God” is fatally flawed. But in the woof and weave of me, there’s a natural desire to show I’ve got it right, though, in fact, I have a lot wrong and always will.

We’re stuck with ourselves, as these Writings I’m so stuck on have been showing me. There’s a TV commercial (you can listen to it here Continue reading

‘twer the hours before and after

Came the night and kitchen utensils clacking. No ghostly presence, no wampyres lurking, just a woman clad in a long, white-sleeved sleep shirt stirring vegetables and meat into a sweet potato stew.

Morning brought the swift breaths of exercise, then a daughter’s cheerful hug and bright eyes. She arrived just as a husband finished step-ladder moves and motions, hanging bulbs of color – red and green and white and blue – the house in its dress for later, the work done before clouds opened wide.

Under steady downpours a drive – to grandmother’s house without horses or sleighs. In the door to aromas expected, yet as always welcome: the bird, the stuffing, rolls, beans, potatoes. Full plates, the tapping of sterling on china.

New friends met familiar family, and in the glow of growing fullness, stories began to flow.

This is the best part: a tale of horses galloping, another with trout, the time I remember first discovering I could upset Dad – when I was four and released all the minnows he’d bought for bait into the shimmering stream.

This is new: the lines on faces, the heads of hair nearly white, the deep, matured voices of grown children. But the laughter rings, a familiar song.

Dishes and utensils clattered in the sink. Down were taken the tables. Tired smiles and stares and it was time to drive home and see them off and wish them well. I wish to gather the moments like fallen leaves.

Press them close in a book of days, with chapters the night hours, glowing like headlights on the way through the pouring rain.

cheered

When I get a chance to sit lately, it’s felt like coming off a long shift in some over-houred factory. I’m tired. We had much stuff packed into the past three months. Not as much as many of you did, I’m sure, but for me it’s been way more than usual.

Reaching the final days of this year is maybe reaching a crossroads, and maybe an end, to a phase in my journey. I won’t go into detail here, because much remains to be processed in my head and heart. I’m a slow digester. Pretty much I’m slow at everything, truth be told.

But around noon today I did something swift and shiny. After dropping Victoria off for a shift at her bookstore job on her birthday, I zipped around heavy traffic zones and over to the local running store, where I spent Christmas money on new magic shoes. They were sale priced $35 off what I paid for the same model last year. Yippee for treadmilling in continued comfort. (And yes, it’s a place where they refer to pairs of shoes by make and model, and the running socks I had money left over to buy are designed, I think, by MIT graduates.)

Back at home I sat by the fire (it was kind to me all day), reading Bob Welch’s latest book, Pebble in the Water. Bob’s a great local columnist. He’s been working at writing his own stuff, apart from his newspaper day job, for many years and has gleaned much wisdom from the process. I’m enjoying following his experiences.

I also paused to reflect back on the day I first became a mom, thanks to Victoria entering the world at 12:03 a.m. another December 26. Refusing Christmas baby status, she grasped her own date, a portent of her method for living in years to come. I recall the slowness and difficulty in my initial efforts to nurse her. The day was long, with festive, excited visitors and little chance for privacy to grapple with something I’d so wanted to do – care for my firstborn infant. After everyone had gone home and while my babe slept in the room with all those hospital bassinets down the hall, I wept into my pillow. Hormones and fears of failure brought me way low.

An odd sound lifted my head. One of the doctors peered around my curtain, an inflated surgical glove covering his scalp, clucking like a chicken.

He could see my red eyes and I was embarrassed, but it was okay. He’d been around awhile. He knew. What a blessing – his goofy actions spoke volumes – I wasn’t the only one who’d been here. Things would work their way out.

I’d give a lot to be able to comfort someone like that. Some days others of you who blog give people you barely know the same sort of gift. You have creative, thoughtful, and zany ways of helping me remember I’m not the only one who’s been here; things will work their way, somehow, at least you’ve seen it happen.

And that counts for lots as we birth another year.

red, green, and white

This is rare enough around here.
But to get the white stuff along with Christmas cheeriness. Wow.

It’s cause for riding off to rejoice with friends.Not that I did.

I tried to contribute to holiday cheer by capturing the moon and trees and snow. My pic’s either kinda wonky or artistic.
For tomorrow they forecast more wintriness. Maybe we shoulda bought snow tires…for the bikes, of course.

cozy up

For you who might be chilled and away from lovely, ambient heat.Or, if you’re warm like me and have let the real fire go out already.

Dust off a good book. Feet up, music in the background. Enjoy. (Ignore football.)