Every Christmas card has been written, stamped, sent. Packages of long-distance gifts mailed. Overseas-bound items are long gone Every gift has either been bought or made: edited, cropped, printed or play-tested, packaged or matted, framed and boxed, wrapped, bagged, taped, labeled, and be-ribboned. The house is decorated; the is tree up, wreaths hung, candles burning.
We celebrated Christmas: Part II this past weekend. This is Melanie, doing her "Christmas dance." This is exactly the sort of dance that always made my dad tell me to "slow down" when I was a kid. Even over Thanksgiving this year, at age 28, I was dancing around the driveway in a similar manner, doing my imitation of the cats Greco-Roman wrestling (I was playing both parts), and my dad told me to "slow down." Heh.
Melanie's a great kid; she really is. She gets to be "the Main Angel" in her Catholic School's Nativity play. She gets to bring the Baby Jesus (a doll) to Mary, skipping over the whole Labor and Delivery part. She wanted to practice by carrying around Baelin, who is getting bigger and chubbaloo and completely delicious.
(He left out a huge burp right after this was shot. Not a great pic of him. Sorry, little buddy.)
It occurs to me that I'm holding Baelin in this picture the same way I'm holding my sister's dog. Aw, other people's babies.
Anyway. Back to the Crazy Christmas To-Do List I've been knocking out.
I've undertaken two long baking sessions. In the first I made about a dozen different varieties of cookies into big trays for my office party, Joel's co-workers and parents, my sister and brother-in-law, the pet-sitter and mail carrier.
peanut better fork cookies
cranberry white chocolate
thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam
peanut butter blossoms with candy centers
Pillsbury Christmas tree cookies*
*Some of these were pre-mixed, premade Tollhouse and Pillsbury break-apart cheater cookies.
The second session was mostly a gift for my Nanny. She was famous for her Christmas cookie trays in her day. She made seriously complex cookies: sand tarts and pignolis and fruit-and-nut varieties and pinwheels that involve cooking pitted dates with grated orange peel on the stove.
Nanny gave both me and Amanda handwritten cookbooks when I was about 12. She taught us herself, by her side, in her kitchen, but so much of what made things "right" was in her hands. She knew so well, so innately, what she was doing that her instructions in the cookbook are sometimes incredibly specific and sometimes really vague. My dad has mastered her meatballs. Amanda's gotten really good at making her marinara sauce recipe and pasta dishes and dough rings of deep-fried deliciousnes; I've been trying to replicate the pies and cookies.
She wrote this dedication in the front:
My Miss America for always. If and when married, you will be my Mrs. America. To my granddaughter with all my love always, Nanny."
I feel closer to her when I cook her recipes. She's still alive, of course, so I call her on my cell from gourmet shops and Italian delis, looking for the exact type of canned almond paste she's been using since the 1940s. This delights her to no end. She's getting a thick throw blanket for Christmas, a framed photo of the two of us that Joel shot on Thanksgiving, and a tray of the ridiculously complicated cookies. Some of the recipes I've got down cold, some are... in need of improvement. I know she'll appreciate the effort.
So yeah. I've also been chasing the pets around, trying to get a nice photo of them by the tree. I think I finally got one, which is a post for another day. Of course, all the cards have been sent, so maybe it's part of next year's design. Because I am DONE!