Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Day "God Jul"

Our Yule log ablaze 2016
I am hoping everyone's Christmas holiday was comfortable and filled with the joys of the season. As I have mentioned previously, I tend to have a different holiday celebration every year depending upon the pressures that daily life imposes. This was the first year my daughters were elsewhere for Christmas eve, celebrating with the families of their partners, so I had a quiet evening of knitting and movies. My son & I shared a homemade gourmet pizza and some wine on this rainy/foggy night.

Our family celebration started as a Christmas day "hobbit" brunch. My son prepares a maple sausage based dish containing potatoes, onions, spinach, mushrooms and peppers all cooked together after the sausage is browned. Yummy topped with an egg or solo on the plate. I made some cranberry-oatmeal muffins and we sipped mimosas. Later, when everyone arrived we added another course we call a  "groaning" cheese board of brie, havarti with dill, a leek & morel jack and a smoky gouda. Finally, there was the yule log cake, a bûche de noël, made in our neighborhood grocer's bakery. I hadn't been able to find a yule cake previously, so I wasn't aware that it is essentially a jelly roll with log imitating frosting. Our charming cake was topped with frosting pine cones and had red velvet cake with a spiral of vanilla frosting inside. I had always thought these cakes were a German tradition, but upon researching Wikipedia found they are also popular in France and Great Britain.

This got me thinking about the Yule Log tradition overall, and here in the U.S. I distinctly remember the televised burning yule log that played all day at my grandmother's Connecticut home Christmas day. See here, an article about the start of that tradition on the East Coast  It was a visual, as well as audio representation of a blazing hearth, sometimes accompanied by holiday music, for those of us without a actual fireplace. I found it very comforting, and still have a YouTube video bookmarked on my lap top when I need to enjoy a crackling fireplace.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holiday Improv

I have to admit I am not a traditionalist for the Christmas season. Having spent a decade and a half working for a national/international shipping company, the onslaught of packages and then the associated shopping and decorating does not fill me with a sense of joy. There are a lot of folks working very hard at this time of year and the added burden of traditions & family expectations create a season based more on endurance and stamina, than joy or magic. From all those years of working over 12 hrs. a day insuring gifts arrived on time for everyone else, I had to implement many short-cuts to my own holiday preparations simply to survive the season. Luckily, my kids were flexible and now that they are grown, we share many fond memories of some of those quirky holidays.

Here are a few hints that may help the harried pull off a satisfying holiday season. First, seriously consider what is important to you. I discovered I was doing Christmas chores that I thought I should be doing, but that my family really didn't feel were that important.

Consider the Christmas tree... I love the smell of a fresh fir tree, but I was the only person decorating, lighting and undecorating this tree. An intensive series of jobs, given that for many years I had collected European ornaments; combine the ornament  unwrapping and then the ritualized hanging of these lovely things, then re-wrapping and storing, and that adds up to a significant amount of time. While the kids liked a fully decorated tree, no one complained when we did a few years of the Paper Tree, see here: and here So this year, I have simplified again, deciding the lovely twinkle lights are what I really enjoy about a holiday tree. We now have a shiny 7' aluminum pole with 150 lights, with a tip top star secured in a tree stand and wrapped in my mother's old tree skirt. I don't have to water it, I can recycle it if I don't want to use it again, storage is easy and I really think this is a more environmentally conscious choice than even a fake tree made of plastic from China.

I place a few of our favorite decorations around the living room and consider my holiday decorating done. With everyone having different obligations at Christmas, easy decorating relieves a little of the stress that can be felt during the season. Finally, I never cook a Christmas eve meal, we go out for Asian food or cook a frozen lasagna. We have a Christmas morning-to-afternoon brunch with hash & eggs, which has blossomed into a very generous meal of whatever brunch-y goodies friends & family bring to share.  Happy relaxed holidays to all!