Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Night

Christmas a new place, with new family members in the pictures that will be part of our future Christmas memories.

Our daughter-in-law's parents and brother are visiting SLC...and joined us for Christmas dinner. It had been six months since we have seen Rachel's folks.

I had put out my album of Christmas pictures and Christmas letters from over the years; Jeff provided the background story on some of the pictures for Rachel and Debra.

The album begins with Christmas 1978, two years before Jeff was born.

A table groaned with pre-dinner treats which didn't get a picture, but allowed everyone to chat and savor time together while...

Bernie finished making Christmas dinner: Pan seared New York Strip Steak roast with a shallot sauce, and roasted carrot, parsnips and fingerling potato with cardamon and coriander seasoning. Bruce made crescent rolls from scratch, and the kids contributed a colorful salad to round out the meal.

Ohhh it turned out good!

Our table is designed to seat six, but one extra person at the end worked out just fine.

In fact, if the group was congenial, I think the table could even be used to seat eight!

Clockwise from top: Rachel's brother Scott, Rachel, Jeff, Rachel's dad Bruce.

The traditional picture in front of the tree before the presents are opened.

And a less traditional pose just for fun.

After dinner and gifts it was board game time. I had been re-arranging some shelves and had a pile of board games out downstairs. Jeff spotted a game from his childhood, and insisted that it be played.

It was interesting to watch a roomful of highly educated people think through their next move.

Child's game indeed! This one took some strategic thinking!

Team Jeff and Rachel won...and Jeff did the Happy Reindeer Prance in celebration.

Since I went digital my Christmas album has not been least three Christmas are not represented in the thick binder now.

But when I took a moment to look again, I realized the Christmas pictures stopped about the time the kids graduated from high school. After that, Christmas became a celebration that was changed forever for our family.

That was the year we sold the house that the children grew up in. We moved hundreds of miles away, leaving our daughter and extended family behind. Miles and then work schedules shifted our Christmas celebrations about, whereas before, for years and years, it had been the same: Christmas Eve at his parent's house, Christmas morning at our house, Christmas night at my parent's house.

Those were very good years.

After we moved it was Christmas in San Jose, then in Dallas, and in Houston, San Diego, Salt Lake City...some times with just Bernie and me, sometimes with Bernie's mother, or my parents sometimes with one child and sometimes with the other.

Since last year more extended family has moved away; a large part of the family now lives in Kentucky, some live in New Mexico, and three of the old familiar faces have flown away to heaven.

Debra commented at dinner that last Christmas, only a year ago, they had yet to met our son.

A year of change, and here we were, a newly created family, laughing and sharing like we had been family forever.

"And it came to pass..." the old beloved Christmas story begins.

I've learned that phrase in the Bible, for better or for worse, applies to all people, of all time and of all places, and no more so than for the short span of time that we celebrate each year as Christmas.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning

Christmas Eve...baking for the neighborhood goodie exchange. I made Persimmon Bread, Cranberry Orange Nut Bread, Pralines, Chocolate Pie, Rosettes, Reindeer Wands, and No Knead Cinnamon Rolls for the morning.

I had to laugh at one of the dozen of large eggs that I bought. Maybe the chickens took off from work early for the holidays...size "large"...yeah...whatever.

Jeff and Rachel had us over for our traditional Christmas Eve Tamale dinner, then the four of us went off to church.

On the hill above our house the neighbors had spelled out an appropriate message for the night.
Since we had no adorable tots with us on Christmas morning, Santa filled the cat's stocking instead.
Tiggie LOVED what Santa got him!

He couldn't decide what to play with first! Twenty-two new cat toys all at once!

"Missy" stared in at us from the cold deck outside.
I felt so bad...even though I am pretty sure this cat has a home of his/her own, judging from the cat's chubby figure.

I made the boys give Missy one of their toys. Missy batted it around the deck; it gave me such a warm feeling to see Missy enjoying his/herself so much.

Tiggie thought it was a dumb idea, and both he and Hart stared out the door in revulsion as Missy leaped about with the toy.

Well, I just told them charity begins at home, and that they had more toys than they needed anyway.

They went and took a nap while we got busy preparing for our Christmas Night family time.

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And so it begins....

The last minute dash to the supermarket, where the lines were so long that people were striking up friendly conversation while they waited.

Outside day turned to night

Crystalline forms fell from the sky
Bejeweled the cars of the shoppers...
Who in their haste to get home with their bounty
Missed the glorious treasures that swirled around them.
Wishing my fellow busy bloggers great success with their last minute
And eyes to see
and minds to know
and hearts that remember
that all that is around them
His People
His Creation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

About once every ten years....

My mom and I used to make Rosette cookies at Christmas time.

The batter: Nothing could be simpler.

If your food budget it tight and you need to make a treat, you won't find a less expensive way to make a few dozen cookie!

Of course the recipe could be "switched up" but we always stuck with the traditional milk/egg/flour mix.

While I am taking some vacation time over the holidays, I'm revisiting a few memorable recipes from my life.

A snowy day, time alone, and Christmas music inspires me to get baking and messing about in the kitchen

If you've never made the treat before, here is how it goes.
The cast iron form is screwed onto a handle. There are at least sixty different styles of molds to collect if you are interested. I have this star shape, a rose window shape, a butterfly and a heart which makes a quarter cup shape suitable for fillings.
The form is dipped in hot oil for a few moments to heat up...

Then dipped into the batter being careful not to have the batter flow over the top edge.

For the batter I used two eggs, 1 and 1/3 cup of half and half, one cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, cinnamon, and clove and a teaspoon of sugar this time.

The batter coated form is plunged into the hot oil.

About a half a minute wait....and the batter begins to separate from the form.
A dull knife can be used to ease off any batter parts that clings to the form.

The form cooks a few more moments to brown, then is flipped to cook the underside.
Then it is fished out VERY gently with tongs.

Drain the hot cookies on some paper towels....they are as fragile as butterfly wings at this point.

Sprinkle with sugar.

(Outside the snow was falling like the finest of sugar...I thought the world looked like I had gotten carried away with the sprinkling process! I had to take a picture to show how fine the snow was on our deck railing.)

A nice collection of snowflake cookies.
I pack them in an air tight bowl, and freeze them.
They will last several weeks, and taste their absolute best re-heated and served with a hot drink like cocoa, coffee or spiced apple cider.
(BEHIND THE SCENE: Just so you know...while it is "easy" to make Rosettes, in the same way that pancake making is easy, they still can be a bit tricky. The first few tend to stick to the form, and it can be rather aggravating to have to scrape a form clear and start again.
While I was growing up, one of the moms in our neighborhood noted that kids were like pancakes...the first couple you make are usually messed up and the kids and pancakes turn out better after the first few.
Being a second child myself, this flattering observation has stuck with me.
Having two kids of my own...hmmm...I wonder what the rest of my "batch" might have looked like if there had been more than two attempts.
Anyway...getting past my neighbor's winsome does help to let all batters like pancakes and these cookies sit for awhile before cooking. The flour particles take a bit of time to fully absorb the fluid, and that is why these sort of things get better with each attempt.
It also helps to have an attention span longer than a gnats...once the rosette is off the form and frying up, you can not wander off to do whatever catches your attention unless you enjoy burnt black forms.
It is also necessary not to do the math to figure out how much each rosette would cost to make if your current rate of pay at work was applied.
You must not think about how many of your family and friends will avoid a fried food.
You must resist eating ALL the rosettes that shatter.
You must resist eating each rosette as soon as it is sugared. (This is why I suggest freezing will slow the mindless munch process down considerably by doing so.)
If you have a friend who gives you rosettes, know that it was a labor of love that she is giving you.
Either that, or she has lost her mind.
Making a loaf of banana bread or a tin of fudge would have taken her half the time. There has got to be a happier way to spend an hour of one's life than dipping batter into boiling hot oil at Christmas time.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Artistry




In the secret dark of a foggy night, a delicate artistry takes place.

Everything has been etched with unexpected beauty.

Every bow of the grand towering spruce has shimmering silver traces of hoarfrost.

The coastal fog-loving sequoia that somehow grew here in our mountains today bears crystals of phenomenon rarely found in its traditional homeland.

A Christmas ornament bedecks the yew by the front door. When the rosy sphere was hung, it seemed festive enough. Now its form is enhanced by natural means not foreseen, and by which it is able to exceed its prior beauty.

Views above are wonderous.

All around me has been changed and become a new by the presence of frozen atmosphere.

Shards of frost

Grew in sequences that only the Creator could plan.

Such wonder...
Such beauty...

Created for what?

A moment of wonder?

A celebration?

A gift for those who take the moment to enjoy?

Nothing is too small for the touch of change.

One moment air and moisture encircled us invisibly...and then, in a secret moment, air and moisture became something new.

But only for a time.

The tangible, visible witness of air and moisture with the touch of the rising sun departs again into the invisible place, leaving behind just a memory.

Dedicated to the passing of Mark Spriggs, whose soul took flight to Heaven last night.
We rejoice in the memories of Mark that will remain etched upon our hearts.
We rejoice that he is out of pain, and now finds himself clothed in white, shimmering in a place of Glory where one day we will surely see him again.