And so it goes… back to little things

Today was Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. It is by some accounts the day the Magi came to see the Christ child. Others believe it represents the baptism of baby Jesus. It is a Christian feast day, complete with a special cake, called King Cake or Galette des Rois.

galette des rois with crown

In Iceland it’s called Þrettándinn, representing the day the 13 mischievous Yule lads return to their parents at their home in the mountains. There are bonfires at many locations throughout towns and country; if one is lucky, one might see an Elf Queen or King dancing around the flames.

In any country, with any beliefs, the holiday celebrations are at an end. A New Year has begun and we start afresh. The tree comes down, the lights go out, the parties stop. Resolutions for a new diet or gym regime, or setting new goals at work take up our time.

And so it goes. We move into “the rest of the year”, full of little things, day-to-day stuff. Some of us look forward to the next holiday, the next celebration. Others are grateful for little things day by day. And still others just put their heads down and try not to think about anything but the finish line.

C’est la vie, as the French say. Life goes on, day by day. Apparently athletes who win a big game – say, the Super Bowl – feel bereft, even depressed, after all the celebrating is over. I think the same thing happens with some people after Christmas. We go into a sort of withdrawal.

As I sit here watching the snow fall that eluded us for most of the holidays, I am cataloging all my special moments and saving them in my mind. I don’t plan on packing them up like the ornaments for the tree. I’m going to keep them handy and use them on bleak days. But for most days, I’m going to just live, and look for the little things that make my day.

The things that people were the most grateful for were the ordinary things in life. The sound of your spouse’s laugh, the smell of morning coffee, the echo of children playing in the yard. The little things. In waiting for the big moments – the vacations, the retirements, the birthdays – we risk missing the experiences of life most worthy of celebrating. — John O’Leary

 

 

Christmas Traditions

As I sit by the tree and its twinkling lights, I am washed with waves of melancholy. It’s all over for another year. That always makes me sad.

Santa ornament b and w

The stockings are down from the mantle, the gifts under the tree have been opened and the turkey has been cooked. The dishes are done, and the wrapping is in the recycle bin. All the pomp and ceremony is done.

I always feel a bit bereft afterwards. Perhaps some of that comes from getting older, as things change. Family members are busy and it’s harder to gather together. There is something to be said for spreading the spirit around (when “more” is about more time together and not so much more stuff, then that’s a very good thing.)

Some of the old traditions disappear as we get older – has anyone else noticed how hard it is to find mandarin oranges and regular sized, regular flavoured candy canes? Christmas stockings with oranges and candy canesNew traditions can be hard to start up – how do we blend them in so there is some thread of the old nostalgia carried on alongside new attitudes and philosophies?

I love Christmas. I love the excitement of planning, the joy of sharing, the gratitude that comes from giving. People try harder to remember the good in each other during the holiday season.

The only way I know to make the empty feeling disappear is to revive the Christmas spirit in my heart. I don’t just believe during the month of December, so I’ve decided I’m going to actively represent my belief each and every month of the year.

Maybe this is another name for random acts of kindness, or paying it forward. My efforts will evolve, and I hope they will expand. Just as Santa’s workshop has expanded with the growing population, the world needs more believers to maintain a positive force to balance the cynicism and polarized attitudes.

I’m feeling a bit better now that I have a plan. Does anyone know where I can get some pointy shoes?

elf shoes

 

 

I Can’t Wait… Have to Bake!

It’s been hot the last couple of weeks. So hot the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven. I don’t know what was worse, having all those ideas of baking pies and crisps and pound cakes that incorporated all the fruit coming into season or sweating through the muggy days with only a small air conditioner that was as overwhelmed as me.

Finally today it clouded over and cooled just a little. I whipped out an old magazine and started the quickest recipe I could remember – fruit streusel muffins I used to make when I first started baking. I had peaches sitting on the counter, so away I went!

 

About an hour later, I was duly rewarded. Not only did the house smell divinely delicious. there was a rack of muffins proudly displaying themselves on the kitchen island.

I did not hesitate. I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, grabbed a side plate and a dob of butter, and sat myself down with a warm muffin. Nirvana was the word that came to mind.

It’s supposed to warm up again tomorrow. But we are coming to the end of summer, and there is still plenty to harvest. The fast has been broken, and I feel a burden has been lifted from my gourmand soul.

Not to mention there are more muffins awaiting consumption. I might just have one for breakfast…

The Man on the Moonl

It’s all over the news. Fifty years ago Man landed on the moon for the first time. All the media outlets have been nostalgic this week – where were you? What do you remember about that week?

I was almost 4 years old in July 1969. As it turns out, the day of the moon landing is my earliest memory.

I remember sitting on a couch beside my Dad, with a paper bag on the floor between us. Groceries were packed in paper bags back then, and we saved them to use for other things. This one was holding peanut shells. My dad was shelling peanuts as he watched the TV.

I remember seeing the men bouncing on the surface of the moon. I remember hearing my Dad’s voice; he was excited, amazed, impressed. Even without anyone telling me, I could tell what was happening was a big deal.

Just as important to me though, was learning how to shell a peanut. Learning to push my thumb on the seam so it cracked open like pea pod was the secret. But my thumbs were little and not very strong. I don’t remember if I managed to get one open on my own, but the day was my first memory of what I would learn was “quality time” with my Dad.

It’s funny, how food was part of my very first cohesive memory. Was I destined to become a Gourmand?

I also find it striking that a memory of my Dad and I watching TV would feature as an historic event in my life. Daddy was in the TV business. I wonder what he was thinking. We never talked about that day in detail. I wish he was here today, it would be a fun conversation.

Such are the ways of the world. As we live our lives, we have no idea most of the time what will be important, what will last as a memory for us and maybe even the future world.

Sometimes it’s the littlest things – like learning to open a peanut. Sometimes it’s a man landing on the moon. Sometimes, it’s the man you remember.

A Bit of Razzle Dazzle

Sundays. The day of the week that is all about quality time. In our house, that often means time around the table, with homemade delicacies. This time of year those delicacies involve part of the wonderful bounty we enjoy.

At the moment we are blessed with an embarrassing amount of raspberries. I could lie under the bush and just let them fall in my mouth, but I think the neighbours would talk. So instead, I made raspberry financiers.

These delightful mouthfuls look, smell and taste decadent but they are amazingly easy to make. They also work well with delicate fruit like berries. Many recipes will end up looking like a dog’s breakfast when you mix in berries (no offence to my dog, but presentation isn’t her thing). Here, you can place the berries on top of the batter and they will bake right in.

They are not a diet item. I bet the calories you get from inhaling the fumes of the butter browning are enough to blow most diets. But trust me, these are worth having a cheat day. Share them around, package some up if you have to and drop them off to a friend.

Tomorrow I’m making Cherry Clafoutis, to use up some of the cherries we picked. The peaches have only just started, so there is no rush to bake with them yet, thankfully. There isn’t enough time to work out and cover all those treats!

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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