Christmas Tradition: Baking

Is baking a Christmas tradition for you? Baking Christmas cookies is a big part of my childhood Christmas memories. Crisp sugar cookies, buttery almond crescents, hearty oatmeal date cookies, and more are some of my mom's baking staples for this season. 

Baking began towards the middle of December in the evenings and on Saturdays. Often the sugar cookies were cut and baked, then frozen until we could spend time decorating them. Bells, camels, and trees are the shapes I remember most. When we go to my parents' place over Christmas, we're almost certain to be served a plate of beautiful sugar cookies. 

My mom and her sister Marty used to try new recipes, as well as the old favourites. One year they made tiny fruits from almond paste mixed with jello powder, I think. The jello provided both colour and flavour to the marzipan. They were pretty, but fiddly, and I don't think they were ever made again. 

Today I made Rugelach, a recipe given to me by my sister. I prepared the do…

December Morning

This morning, as the day lightened just before sunrise, pale violet flooded the eastern sky where the slimmest pale crescent of moon hung by a thread. These days are cold and clear, with temperatures hovering around 0 Celsius overnight. Just cold enough to cover rooftops and foliage with a thin layer of white frost. 

We're having such mild weather (unlike those east of the Rocky Mountains) that the chance of snow this year is highly improbable. Too bad. I do love it.

Thank you for your supportive comments on my simple story. Writing something and publishing it to this blog was a goal I'd set myself earlier this autumn. Creativity flourishes with time to practice and there has been little of that lately. However, with the big push at school done now, my mind is clearer. 

We hosted Tim's work party here last Friday night. There were 24 of us, a very convivial bunch. After they left Tim and I cleaned up all the dishes and tidied up so that we wouldn't have to face it in the …

Finding Lost Things: Part Three

For this week's Mosaic Monday, I'm posting the third, and final part of a little piece of fiction I wrote. There are links to the previous parts below. 

This is the conclusion of a three-part story. You can find Part One here, and Part Two here.

         The days of December ticked by. Every few days her family had something special for her to do – a bubble bath with candles mid-week or a new magazine to read. Although it was difficult in the beginning, Alicia worked at letting go and each day became easier and easier. She began to realize that it wasn't the results that were so important; it was the relationships built into the process. For so many years she was the one who led the charge for Christmas, ensuring that what was done fit her expectations. Moving to the sidelines allowed her to cheer on her family, even when their efforts weren't quite as she would have chosen. 

           The children decided to bake just three kinds of cookies, their favourites, and make …

Finding Lost Things: Part Two

This is the second part of a 3-part story. You can find Part One by clicking here

         In the evening, after dinner was completed, Alicia sat in the living room, her hands loose in her lap, thinking about how she should be making lists and getting started on Christmas once again. Jill and Ben were upstairs, presumably doing homework, but possibly texting with friends. 
Kevin came into the room. “What’s up, Alicia? Something’s been bothering you – you’ve been so quiet for the past couple of days.” He sat down as she began talking.
Tears pricked Alicia’s eyes. “It’s Christmas – I feel so overwhelmed by all I have to do.” She started talking and it all spilled out – the loss of hope and joy, the feeling of too much to do, the inadequacy she felt and the way anticipation had turned to dread. “I don’t want to feel this way. I want to feel the way I did when I was younger.”
Kevin said nothing for a minute. She was thankful that he didn't rush in and console her with platitudes. 
“I kn…

Finding Lost Things: Part One

This post has taken enormous courage to publish. I read a piece of writing, just a sentence or two, about lost things, and it piqued my imagination. From it I created a simple story, not a literary work by any means. It will be published in three posts over the next week. I hope you enjoy it as I have enjoyed writing it. 

Alicia didn’t know exactly when she lost her love of Christmas. It was gradual, imperceptible, lost over years of baking too many cookies for piano recitals and school programs, lost through wandering the malls looking for just the right gift, lost by too little sleep and wondering if she’d done enough.
          She remembered the anticipation of being a child – those years when the turning of the calendar to December 1 kindled a small spark of excitement that was fed into flames by playing the part of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in the puppet show in Grade One, by putting on an angel costume and singing Angels We Have Heard on High in the Sunday School program. S…

Towards the end of November

Our small table, where we eat when it's just the two of us, has the best view of the bird feeder. These days we watch black-eyed juncos, house finches, a variety of sparrows, the occasional towhee, and a few chickadees vying for positions on the feeding perches. They can certainly squabble, those birds, all a bit greedy to have sole access to the feeder. 

"No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member - No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds - November!" -   Thomas Hood, No!
Hood's words seem a little harsh for this year's November. We've had a fair bit of sunshine and just yesterday I saw a wasp inspecting a red Christmas light strung along the eaves, perhaps thinking it some sort of flower. I pulled on my wellies this afternoon and tramped around the garden. How surprised I was to see a few flowers: a couple of cornflowers, a sweet pea, some roses, a stalwart zinnia, and of cou…

The Soft Side of November

I carry the sheets, warm from the dryer, up the stairs to the bedroom. Holding one edge of the sheet, and raising my arms high, I let the sheet fly upwards and billow like a cloud before it settles quietly on the bed. November bright sun surges through the window illuminating the African violet on the bookshelf. Crisp shadows, pale coloured flowers against rich green leaves. 
The sight was worth going downstairs for my camera.

Outside, the brilliant leaves of late October and early November are fading into pale shadows of themselves, settling deeper into the earth. Gingko leaves curl into whorls of creamy yellow.

Birds pick off the Hawthorne berries one by one, leaving open spaces among the branches. A few shriveled black berries are perhaps a reminder that the feast won't last indefinitely.

November comes And November goes With the last red berries                              And the first winter snows

On one hydrangea bush, the leaves and blossoms sing a duet of colour that will soon f…