I know I am slacking on my posts...forgive me. Life can be busy and overwhelming this time of year, even if it is 'happy' overwhelming. For instance, it's time to send out Christmas cards, and I have yet to pick them out. I have a collection of unused cards from years past, of course. I am tidy that way. But losing the envelopes makes sending them difficult, sometimes. So every year I get some new ones...
I look forward to 'A Dickens of a Christmas' which is the local, downtown celebration of the season; complete with a parade, pet costume contest, and tables of local artists' and artisans' wares set out for sale on the Farmers' Market. Cat toys, handbags, jewelry, polished rock, photographs: all and more are for sale. White Christmas tree lights hang over every stall, and the air is scented with handmade candles, soaps, confections, and holiday breads.
The service from the vendors is so very happy and personal. Families bustle by with brown paper packages; they chat happily. Excitement is in the air and sparks like electricity between the walking shoppers.
I don't usually buy the breads; I make my own. Cranberry-orange, blueberry, date-walnut, banana nut; everyone has their favorite. For some, I simply make loaves of fresh, crispy white bread. Served with honey butter, hot, it is nothing to sneeze at. Chocolate chip cookies are a specialty of mine as well. My Father loved them crispy, and Mom loved them soft. So I still make both. One year, a neighbor and I made several pounds of fudge. I stacked fudge on the kitchen counters until I lost sight of the walls. I gave it away in bags with ribbons, and tins. Everyone got fudge that year.
I make butter 'thumbprint' cookies with blackberry preserves in the thumbprint. Shortbread is a favorite of my friend, Dark Star. My brother loves getting anything with nuts in it. (His wife and daughter are allergic, and he only gets nut breads once a year.) And of course, at the end of it all: the breakfast casserole for Christmas morning.
One year at the Old House, that I remember with great fondness, I picked sour cherries and made preserves for Christmas. I loved giving the small, brightly red, pint jars with the dark green ribbon around the lid. I kept one for myself, to test, and enjoyed the jam well into January. A bit of summer evening held over into the winter to enjoy.
I don't have the trees anymore, but I make my bread, and cakes and 'bark' with nuts and berries. The kitchen becomes covered in a fine drift of flour, and confectioners' sugar. Walnuts crunch satisfactorily in the hand, while the countertops are decorated with the blueberries and cranberries and oranges that I use in my recipes. I dress the finished goods with tinfoil and gold ribbons. One especially happy Christmas memory is that of an senior lady and I making 'Russian tea' in batches for her friends. I was 8 years old, and I have no idea who the woman was now. Probably one of my Mother's geriatric patients, long ago. But she told me stories of her grandmother and her Russian tea, all afternoon. That was the day that I realized that one day, I too, would grow old. She told me she hadn't been born with white hair, or as she appeared to me. She insisted that she had once been a child, with parents and grandparents, just as I was. It was the biggest discovery of my life, up to that time, that first glimpse of mortality.
So, this morning, I pull out these Christmas memories, and I remember what her kitchen smelled like, making gallons of citrusy tea. My coffee this morning is Tanzania Peaberry, a dark roast. My ceramic Christmas tree shines with its colored lights. And outside, in the dark, the storm is coming. Lights gleam in the streets and from windows, a symbol of hope, and the love that surpasses all.