Friday, December 28, 2007
Where was I in my Christmas howl? Off to dig out my silverware, I believe. That was then. Now we're all over the chasm--on the other side from Christmas. It's over. But let us continue the blabbing about My Christmas Traditions...
It's fun to set the table for Christmas, since we never set it unless we have company, so out comes the Gorham Chantilly, my mother's silver butter plates, and father-in-law Morton's silver napkin rings. This year I used the English placemats I got in the Sissinghurst garden shop, so there's my gardening connection! Once I got the cookies off the dining table, I couldn't wait, so I set it up the night before for Christmas din din.
Pick the Bread consists of tearing apart wonder bread into thumbsize pieces and letting them grow stale the night before Christmas [all the while hoping the alleged rat we thought we had recently keeps away...eeeek]. This is the basis for the very boring, plain, but beloved Schwan Turkey Stuffing. No cornmeal, capers, curry, raisins, none of the nonsense that signifies sophisticated Christmas feasting...just pulled-apart bread, onion, celery, butter and Bell's seasoning. Easy enough for Clueless to handle!
On to Christmas Day. First tradition of the day is baking Fanny Farmer scones, and wolfing them down with butter and jam. Drink of choice is Champagne! Yummy and festive. Still in jammies during this phase, so it's all comfort food enjoyed in comfort.
After presents, it's time to dropkick the turkey into the oven. My sister chops the celery and onion, and makes the stuffing while I prepare the beast to receive said stuffing. It goes pretty easily, and it's no fancy turkey either, just a frozen supermarket job with a popup thingie. Tie it up, place breast side down for first half hour, flip it over, and it roasts for the balance of the morning and afternoon.
[I might note that I am not enjoying a house full of amaryllis or paperwhites, christmas cactus, orchids, or any other festive plants of the season, least of all poinsettias, which I hate. Clueless hasn't had a houseplant since the spiderplant craze of the seventies...go figure. This is one of the reasons I suspect I do not belong to the fellowship of True Gardeners out there.]
Turkey in, presents open, the Ruth Lyons Christmas Record has been played, stockings not to be opened til later, so it's time for one of the most universal and time-honored traditions that I am happy to observe--Christmas Day Boredom. Other family members also indulge. Sweet.
In lieu of a walk or watching a movie to alleviate this condition, I peel potatoes and rinse and pick through the green beans.
Dinner guests arrive and it's time to open stockings. Festive time had by all, and the turkey smells good. As I mentioned, this Christmas tradition skillset of mine is so elementary that it's easy even for Clueless to get the dinner on the table. Charlie Brown could get this dinner on the table. Just to make things properly slightly awry, I forgot to put out my homemade cranberry sauce, and the dinner biscuits come out like hockey pucks, and the gravy runs out immediately. Cheers, everyone!
About halfway through dinner I finally lose my appetite for Christmas music, and this yearning goes on hiatus for the next 350 days. Classic FM and BBC radio feeds are disconnected, records re-sleeved, and it's back to the secular music world. Pumpkin pie and Brooklyn cheesecake are slapped on the table to bring the Meal to a satisfying but hardly novel end.
No, I don't roast a goose, or do a roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. I repeat Thanksgiving. Easy, tasty, and fun; so much so, even Clueless can do it.
Happy New Year!!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
As I Listen to "A Chester Carol" on the BBC...
I am not the least bit religious, in fact, I'm an atheist, but golly, do I love Christmas. But make it the Church of England's version, please. No "Jingle Bells" crap, cut out most of the shopping, get the creche scene out of the liquor store window [actually, now I think about it, I'd like that!], and let me concentrate on just what I deem to be my Official Christmas Traditions. Does that make me a Cafeteria Christmas Celebrator? Goody! I've worse models to emulate than Horn and Hardart.
First comes the card. I do my own [I admit they are crappy, but they are mine], and have been doing so since college. My poor recipients! Some years are better than others, but I send 'em out whether a superlative flash of inspiration has struck me or no. This year the lucky few received three cards in one, with Hannukah, Xmas and New Year's wishes...[yes, they are dead tree cards, but I take mass transit everyplace, so there.]
Next, the Cookie Recipe comes out. My mother cut out a Land O' Lakes Christmas ad from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in like 1949, and it is the only thing I cook/bake that is any good at all. As may be assumed, the cookies and frosting are big on butter. It's a modified shortbread that melts in the mouth, and people really like it. I give the cookies out to friends, family and to people I feel guilty about for one reason or another. My sister and I are trying to source REAL cellophane bakery bags to give the coogs out in, but I fear it's plastic cellophane from here on in. The baker samples many, many cookies during the baking and decorating process, and I bake lots of scraps to gobble down too. It kills my mildly-arthritic hand to squeeze the pastry bag, but I do manage to squeeze out a holly leaf and berry on each cookie to be given away. Family cookies are far sloppier, but they taste just as goooooood. I try to get the coogs given out before Christmas, but always fail, and luckily they taste good for a long time after baking. When the cookies finally run out in January, I know it's time to take down the Christmas tree.
Ah, the tree. I put it up earlier and take it down later than most people, because I love having it, and because it is so much fucking trouble to buy, get home [we walk it back from the Vermont boys' tree emporium in the churchyard 2 blocks away], get the boxes of ornaments out of the basement, get the lights on, put on the silver necklaces, put on the ornaments, get out the little toys my family always put out at Christmas, put them on the mantels, and finish by vacuuming up all the piney needles [funny, the tree always seems moister at the tree lot]. Took me 4 days this year, not all day everyday, mind you. Hubby being Jewish, he tolerates my December mania very nicely, but it scares him to actually decorate for Christmas, and I understand. So I do it all myself. I always, always, every year, have the moment when I say to myself, "What am I doing this for? Who am I doing this for?" and I despair. This year, like clockwork, the feeling set in, as I contemplated the selloff of all these baubles and gimcracks on some EBay of the future, apres my demise, for there's nobody in the family faintly interested in inheriting. Surefire antidote--- I put on "Blonde on Blonde" and immediately the melancholy melted away. Thanks, Bob!
Next, I can wallow in my newest Christmas passion--old, not antique, but old, Christmas stickers and seals. Yes, the silliest ephemera possible, but I am currently quite fixated on the Ebay catagories "Vintage Christmas Stickers, Seals, Tags" and have built up a ridiculously large collection. I use the stickers on my Christmas card envelopes; I guess I can use that fact to justify my auction-hovering behavior. I had a rival on many auctions, a woman calling herself mistressmary, who seems to have the same exact taste in stickers as I do...she beat me many times, using that mechanism that always comes in right as the auction ends, and outbids whoever is about to win. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!! She's my Christmas humbug this year.
Are you waiting to read about my charitable work and contributions in connection with Christmas? I do not work in a soup kitchen, though I write a modicum of checks at year's end. Guilty, guilty, guilty, indeed I feel, and I feel too the hardness of the little black stone that is where my heart should be. But this is me not lying on my blog, presenting my own inconvenient truth.
Part II of this rant will have to wait....I have to go find my silverware for my Christmas dinner table. It's lost somewhere in my clothes closet, where it too resides all year, just to emerge in December.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
And So To Bed
There's something about leaving the garden--really leaving it, abandoning it for four months--that makes me feel like I'm a deadbeat dad [or mom]. I walk away, I don't look back, I don't see it's cared for, I leave it to the open elements, the munching deer, left to fend completely for itself. And so last week I left my garden, not to return until April 1, when the house tenants move out, and I can move back in. I did cut down the dead stalks and weeded, but being clueless, lazy and hapless, the flowerbed wasn't frozen when I left, so I did not winter mulch it. !!! What a terrible, unbelievable "don't"-- not to winter mulch. Some part of me cast my garden's fate to the wind--literally! What survives this Darwinian winter of punishment will live to bloom another season, and what succumbs I will mourn. Like a passage from a Virginia Woolfe novel, I can picture the garden standing there alone, bracing against the winds, shuddering at the approach of deer, dessicating at the hands of sharp winter winds. And I'm not there--I'm gone. I especially think of my beautiful garden "follies"-- my gorgeous twig fence [see the photo at the top of the blog, and you can just about make it out] and my precious stone garden seat covered in moss...they are my sentries, and will watch over things until I can get back. Whatever else dies, my fence and my garden seat will survive, to greet me come April.
Until then, I can hope most anxiously for a traditional winter mulch for my plants--a snow cover that lasts all winter. Fingers crossed. And, now, to bed for the long winter's night...