A couple of staff members and I sat down today and wrote down what worked and didn't work during the Advent and Christmas season. There are quite a few things bearing down on us at the moment so it was a discipline to do it, but ten and a half months from now Future Me is going to LOVE that we made the effort.
And so partly to give us all a record and partly to give us all a chance to reflect on the 2010 Holiday Season now that we are out of it, I ask you this:
1) What food item was one of your favorites this year – a definite keeper?
I was visiting a friend and ate the most delicious cookies ever: Chocolate Cornflake Meringues. I know it sounds funny, but they have a fabulous combination of crunch and melt-in-your-mouth. Can't wait to make them myself!
2) Was there a meal or party or a gathering that stands out in your mind from this most recent holiday season?
A church family invited us to dinner between the two Christmas Eve services. After the meal, we sat in the family room while the children were going to bed above us. It's an old house, and the 7-year-old spoke these words to us through the floor vent, invisible but dearly, sweetly audible:
"Roses are red, violets are blue. Merry Christmas to all…especially you!!!"
3) Were you involved in a jaw-dropper gift? Were you the giver or recipient or an on-looker?
I knew about my first jaw-dropper gift in advance, since Snowman took me to the Boston Pops on December 20. But it was a spectacular moment when he opened an envelope from #1 Son to see a pair of tickets to John Adams' "Nixon in China" at the Metropolitan Opera in February. Snowman asked, "Did you get this idea because I told you I was taking Mom to the Pops?" And his older brother could say, "No, I had the idea the day before you told me about that."
And later that morning, I opened a package from the Domestic Goddess to find a $20 bill tucked in with a card that said "Puppy Fund." That one made me cry, for all kinds of reasons.
4) Was there at least one moment where you experienced true worship?
I don't think I'll ever forget the late Christmas Eve service of 2010, when I heard LP sing "Of the Father's Love Begotten," and Snowman play Handel, and later I stood in the midst of a circle of candle-holding worshipers to give the Benediction at exactly midnight. Everything felt right. Then we went out into a cold, clear night, stars spread out on a purple-black sky, and I felt the wonder of the wanderers who found Jesus. So sweet.
5) What is at least one thing you want to make sure you do next year?
Celebrate Second Christmas again. (Especially since Christmas will be a Sunday.)
BONUS: What is something you absolutely must remember to do differently… or not at all!
We never put any ornaments on the tree this year, except for a few that were gifts this year. I didn't miss them, exactly, but next year – well, this year — I hope to be in a better frame of mind, one in which I will enjoy handling them and hanging them and even putting them away, as I usually do.
Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions – religious and secular – that mark the season for us in a more personal way.
For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.
1) Lighting the Advent Wreath — I grew up Baptist, and I never had an Advent wreath, but I remember reading about the wreath Maria made for the Von Trapp children in "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." My mother read the book aloud to me when I was about five, and the image of that family gathered around a wreath spoke to me. I've told the story before that we used to do one at home, but I found it harder to keep that going after I began serving a church. Most famously we once forgot to snuff out the candles on it before leaving for church on Christmas Eve. Thank goodness I remembered!!! The Father of My Children raced to our nearby home and put them out before disaster occurred.
2) A Real Christmas Tree — I like one that takes up space. We don't have a good house for it, and we've tried numerous positions. This year it's going in the sunroom, where big windows will make it visible to our neighbors and where we can enjoy it both from the dining room and the living room. We put it in there once before, when Sam was a puppy, mostly to keep it away from him. I'll miss wondering if he will treat a tree with respect, so to speak.
3) Things My Mother Made — I love opening the boxes of ornaments and decorations, and one of my favorite things is finding the Christmas tree skirt she made for me many years ago. It's white felt, with felt cut-outs of our house in Jane Austen's Village and the church of my childhood and even a grey cat, just like the two we loved many years ago. My mother also sat in once at a stocking making session of the Mother's Group at Large Church. This was long enough ago that I had only one child, but when we sold the stockings at the Church Fair I bought an extra. After Snowman was born, my mother took all four of our stockings and added names and additional decorations to them. When LP came along, after my mother died, a sister-in-law helped me make a similar stocking for her.
Thank goodness the child in my car most of the time agrees. So far.
5) "O Come, All Ye Faithful" — Sung at the beginning of the service on Christmas Eve, it brings back childhood memories and marks the arrival of Christmas for me. (The more verses, the better.)
And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.
Oh, dear. Here's the truth. I'm a decoration snob. I can't help it. I grew up in the long, dark shadow of Colonial Williamsburg, indoctrinated into the belief that anything other than a single, tasteful candle at each window would be mortifyingly tacky.
So, I don't like the blow-up things in people's yards.
Well, sometimes they amuse me. (But don't tell anybody.)
We had three pies planned for a six-person Thanksgiving dinner, and there was some anxiety on my part about the need one had for gluten-free crusts. I worried, you see, that we would have pies no one liked, or run out of the one "good" pie (you know, with gluten). There was a last-minute trip to buy more pie crust that failed (sold out!). Then early on Thanksgiving morning, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, saying she wanted to bring something over. It was a beautiful maple pumpkin pie!
Now we were all set.
Later in the day, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. Someone said, "It's a pie delivery!"
And sure enough, it was a relative stopping by, and he had a pecan pie for us. Pie-ola!!!
Please answer these five questions about pie:
1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?
They are essential to Thanksgiving. I grew up with pies at Christmas, too, but I confess to being more open-minded about Christmas desserts. Pecan was the favorite pie of the adults in my childhood, and I was excited when that was the pie that appeared on my doorstep yesterday. Delicious! And as my son pointed out, we ended up with .83 pies per person, which was perhaps more than absolutely required, but delightful, nonetheless.
2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
I ask this because it's a common belief in my family. I do love cake, and my menfolk have loved pie. For me, I guess it depends on the kind of pie in question.
3) Cherries–do they belong in a pie?
One of the offerings at our Thanksgiving was a cherry pie made with cherries grown in the pie maker's backyard. That's okay. But those scary super-red cherries in the syrupy stuff? Ick.
4) Meringue–if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
Chocolate pie is one of those things that almost always sounds like a better idea than it actually turns out to be, at least in my experience. Meringue puzzles me. It breaks away from the thing it's on so easily. I guess this goes back to the pie/cake debate. I like a topping that stays ON. But on the whole, I like meringue better on lemon than chocolate.
5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
I love carrots in a chicken pie, and potatoes, too. After living for many years with various people who were pea-phobic, I recently ate a chicken pot pie with peas, and I found I enjoyed them.
I hope everyone who reads this got to eat the pie of her or his dreams! We had three different kinds of pumpkin pie, but the best was the one in the graham cracker crust (my preference).