Preparations (and #whisky cake)

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Home and hearth.

The rest of the house sleeps, but the early hours–the hours before the sun breaks over the ridge–are the hours that allow my thoughts  to percolate…and my preparations for the things that lies ahead.  The  morning moments, before the bustle of breakfast or the scurry of the workday, grant me peace; I accept the offering and try not to squander it.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  The amazing abundance that makes it the table is a labor of love.  I tend to plan my meal months in advance.  Some of the dishes will be found at tables across America, and others are simply family favorites.

Last night I brined the turkey.  Last year was our first year to brine the holiday bird, and it was such a success that it was quickly decreed that All Birds Henceforth Shall Be Brined.

Today will be filled with All Things Cranberry: the traditional Cranberry Relish, our beloved Neil Gaiman Cranberry Sauce, and Sugared Cranberries.  (Seriously, there is nothing more precious than hearing a small child say, in his best Holiday Manners, “More Neil Gamain Cranberry Sauce, please?”)

Desserts will also fill the oven today.  Whisky cake*, pumpkin pie, and pecan tassies.  The sugar  cookie and Pfeffernüsse dough were made over the last weekend and are ready to be baked on Thanksgiving night as we drag all of the Christmas decorations down from the attic.

Today I’ll make fudge (pumpkin, and peppermint, and chocolate), peanut brittle, and rum sauce.   Candy dishes will be filled and refilled as little hands sneak “just a taste” when I turn to stir a pot or peek in the oven.

Tomorrow is for side dishes and things-that-go-on-trays.  Pickle trays, cheese trays, olive trays, veggie trays…  Heaping piles of side dishes will be prepared: mashed potatoes, praline sweet potatoes, salads, quinoa and wild rice with cranberries and carmalized onions.

Tomorrow is for last-minute vacuuming by over-eager children with energy to burn (likely from the rush of stolen sugary-things).

Tomorrow is for trying to fill the table with all the foods that represent home, and family, and tradition; for wishes of a winter filled with Enough…enough food, enough warmth, enough family and friends, enough Love to make it through the years Dark Days.

As you go about your last minute preparations, I wish you Enough.

 

* If you will be having family over for the holdays, or going to visit family, I HIGHLY recommend making a whisky cake.  My version is very, erm, “bracing.”  Just the thing for a lovely day with the in-laws. 💕

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Tha mi brónach

trees-450854_640There is something about January…

When the living room is devoid of tree and garland, and the last scraps of wrapping paper have been bagged up and taken to the curb, and the oven is cold after weeks of nearly continuous use…that’s when you are most vulnerable.  That is when it finds you, and settles into your winter weary bones, and takes root.  Perhaps it is the post-holiday blues, or something to do with less daylight, or less laughter, or less…something.

But it comes nonetheless; it always does.  Some years it hits harder than others.  No reason why, really. It just does.

Simple things slip your mind.  Routine broken, it is easy for things to fall through the cracks.  And it is hard to even think; the house is both too loud and too quiet.  The frigid winds make outdoors unbearable, but inside the air hangs heavy, unmoving, suffocating.

The store shelves are picked over.  Discount holiday paper and stale Christmas cookies are stacked next to Valentine’s Day candies and heart wielding teddy bears; the last of the winter coats languish just a rack over from brightly colored bikinis.

A strange time, this.  And I, caught between the pull of winter and the promise of spring, find myself ripping at the seams under the strain of this seasonal tug o’ war.

I find solace where I can: in my books, my words, and deep in my head; in warm socks, and hot tea, and a dram of whisky to cast off the chill; in stories, and crackling fires, and the promise of something…well, of something.  Something beyond the cold, and the tired, and the weary.

I feel sadness on me.