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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Well here we are smack dab in the middle of Christmas week. Finally I have some time to reflect on the Christmas season as I’ve experienced it so far. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day were pleasant, and fairly unrushed. We started by going to Chester, not to the new retail mall, but to the old part with the quaint shops and antique stores. Mainly we went to hear and see “Cast in Bronze”, that wonderful act we first saw last year outside of Shop Rite. For those who don’t know what that could possibly be, I invite you to learn more by visiting this website It was a pleasant but cold day for Bruce, Hillary and me where we strolled down the street and window shopped, bought some sweet treats at a cake boutique, ate the best pizza on a bench outside (we couldn’t get Hillary’s mammoth wheelchair into most of the shops), coffee from a neat little cafĂ©, and bought Anna a Christmas gift. In the following weeks we went to dinner with good friends in a restaurant we’d never been to--so much fun! Anna and I baked cookies and I went to a cookie swap with the ladies from work--more fun & yummy! Bruce and I took a day off and Christmas shopped for the girls and other family members together topped off by lunch at Applebee’s. Anna and I went to lunch a few times on her day off which happily coincides with my one early day a week, and we managed to sneak in a quick shopping trip.

Things became a bit more stressful as the big day got closer. The 23rd found me rushing to finish my shopping, both gifts and groceries immediately after work, and Christmas Eve day trying to wrap gifts and argue with myself about whether or not to attend the evening candlelight service. I finally gave myself permission to skip it this year. It’s the first year I didn’t go to church Christmas Eve, I am estranged from my church for numerous reasons but generally do go this one time a year. Honestly, I felt much more peaceful not going.

Christmas Day was lovely, quiet, and non rushed--it took us about 5 hours to open gifts, as we took our time admiring, appreciating everything and had breakfast in between. One of my brothers came by for the day which was capped off with a simple but yummy dinner of pot roast and veggies, cookies and custard. Monday was spent grocery shopping for yesterday’s party, and so of course Tuesday was spent in preparing for the party and enjoying all who came. Today is rest/cleanup day, and tomorrow evening we’ll go to a party at our good friends’ house. The rest of my holiday break will be spent relaxing, and perhaps taking down the festive decorations in preparation for the return to “normal”, whatever that is!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookies, the Irrestistible Treat

A recent writing assignment here which is appropriate to the season and my recent and usual holiday pastime!  Grab a cup of something hot or glass of milk, a handful of cookies and enjoy!

It's unusual to find someone who can resist a cookie when presented with a plateful.  Whether homemade or store bought they are one of the treats most people enjoy every now and then.  What is it about them that we find so enjoyable?  It may be that they remind us of our childhood with an after school snack of milk and cookies, or perhaps they bring back memories of our grandmother or a favorite auntie.  It could be simply the need for a bit of sugar to boost our mood. Whatever the reason, we all enjoy cookies.

Cookies are known by many different names around the world.  In Australia and England they are called biscuits.  In Spain, children and adults alike enjoy galletas.  Germans call them keks, or platzchen. We've all heard of the Italian biscotti, of course, and they are also known as amaretti there.  The word "cookie" is derived from the Dutch word "koekje", which means small or little cake.  Some other American terms are "jumbles", "plunkets", and "cry babies".

The popular treats are classified by how they are formed.  T"here are drop cookies such as chocolate chip, molded cookies such as snicker doodles and peanut butter cookies.  Popular at Christmas time are rolled cookies such as sugar cookie cut outs and gingerbread men, and pressed cookies known as spritzgeback.  Bar cookies are known as "tray bakes" in England, and blondies are one type of these.  Sandwich cookies are likely the most popular store bought variety.

Cookies have been around for a very long time. The earliest cookies are thought to be from Persia in the seventh century A.D.  Cookies came about from cake dough being used in small amounts to test the oven temperature.  By the end of the 14th century little filled wafers could be purchased on the streets of Paris, as well as found among the royalty of European countries.  it is thought that the English, Scotch and Dutch immigrants brought the first cookies to the U.S. in the form of "tea cakes".

Up until the 18th century cookies were relatively hard, until the modern form became more popular by the technique of creaming of butter and sugar together.  Popular among early Americans were the macaroon and gingerbread.  Today there are countless recipes in the United States for cookies.  Who would have thought that a small, flat, baked concoction of flour, butter or lard, eggs and sugar could be such a delicious, irresistible snack?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.....and Rudolph?

Well, I did it. I lit the Christmas fire within this weekend and am now enjoying the season. All it took was some baking, a good deed, chatting with a friend, and some decorations. The tree is up and decorated, room decorations are scattered about, and the outside decorating is complete. It looks festive, but HGTV isn’t going to be filming my house any time in the near future.
Most of my decorations are quite old or hand made by a child, or improvised by me. We use a pre-lit artificial tree, but when we put it together, the top third didn’t light! We jiggled, we shook, we twisted and tested, but the lights wouldn’t work. What to do? I drove to the pharmacy and purchased some lights and voila! Lights on the top third! When decorating the tree each ornament brings a memory either from my childhood, early in our marriage, or of the girls’ childhood. Our little bay window is graced with a glass vase I filled with potpourri and tied a red ribbon and green jingle bell around the neck, and on either side of it are the tinsel-y red star sprays that were balloon weights at Anna’s college graduation party. The piano is adorned with an assortment of small Christmas toys, some plastic, some wood, and the green sparkly gift bag balloon weight from Hillary’s birthday balloons. The wooden water pump replica lamp that one of my clever brothers made recently for my husband is festooned with a Christmas necklace made from painted stones around the shade and a tiny white seal wearing red earmuffs atop the trough. The front of the house is lit with 600 tiny lights wound around the bushes and strung along the deck rail and outlining the door. On the door is a candy cane made of gold, red and green sparkly jingle bells given to me by a co-worker a few years ago around the top of which I’ve tied a piece of red tartan ribbon that likely came off a gift at some point in time. A wreath made many years ago by my husband’s youngest sister is attached to the front of the deck flanked by plastic candy canes from the dollar store. Finally, in the corner of the deck stands a 3 foot tall wooden Rudolph Reindeer guarding the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They’re not large, maybe 18 inches high, and the baby is attached to the little manger with a red twisty tie. I don’t know how old they are, but my parents were getting rid of them so we took them when we first bought our house. When Anna was about 2 years old she used to take the baby Jesus for walks around the yard in her toy shopping cart. We’ve thought about replacing them over the years, yet we don’t. They’ve become for me a link to the past with their faded chipped paint and non working lights.

So, that’s how I lit the fire of Christmas spirit within me. Now, time for cookies!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Can't Find It!

It occurred to me today as I was walking through Wal-Mart that I seem to be missing something. I took a personal day to keep a doctor’s appointment, and made sure I had time before it to do a little shopping. I strolled around on my way to the items I needed to buy, looking for stocking stuffers. As I made my way through the store I took in the Christmas decorations for sale, candies, all the brightly colored shiny things and hummed along to the Christmas tunes playing over the loudspeaker. Past the electronics and toys, through the holiday tableware and candles I wandered on the way to the baking aisle. That’s when it occurred to me. I have no Christmas spirit this year. I’ve tried to find it, even an ember to breathe to life. I’ve gone to hear a carillon played by the spirit of the bells, gold bird mask and all, and to look through old timey shoppes. I’ve gone to an Advent concert at church, and watched Rudolph and Charlie Brown’s Christmas, as well as various other holiday programs. I listen constantly to the Christmas music playing over the radio and still, it eludes me. I haven’t begun to decorate or bake Christmas cookies, and for me, this is late!

The Christmas spirit isn’t something that I can “get” from the store, the TV, the radio or a book. It’s something that has to happen inside of me, I know it’s in there! Somewhere, down inside of me, there is an ember of Christmas joy waiting for me to breathe it to life. I’m not sure quite what’s covering it up this year. It could be that so very many people that I know are having difficult times with either finances, health, or both, or are missing loved ones an extra bit this year. I have found myself thinking more and more of those relatives who have been gone for many years now, wishing they were here again, in person. Whatever it is, I’ll do my best to sweep it away and get to that ember of joy. I hope that you are all able to find the Joy of Christmas, and Peace.