A delicious pause before Christmas

Hello there. I skipped being in this space last week but, well, here I am today. I kind of got sucked into this crazy, beautiful hole called December, with its whirl of activities (on top of regular work schedules). Somewhere along the way my birthday happened, which I spent very quietly at home, in house clothes, eating barbecue and many different kinds of cake with family and whoever happened to walk through our door with them, that day. There were many wishes sent my way, words so beautifully strung together the thoughts warmed my heart. I am still feeling so loved and blessed. Thank you.

I love December. I wish every month had a little of December in it. The past two weeks found me making lists, ordering presents and sending them out, eating lots of fruitcake (which I love and eat the whole year round), sharing meals with small groups of friends over lunch or dinner. I was even able to fine-tune the Christmas tree. This year it is a traditional green one, filled with crystals from 16 years ago, red cherries and red roses, twigs frosted in white. No, I am not even halfway done with Christmas presents yet but I love all that the season brings as much as I do all that it represents: gratefulness, precious time with family and friends, the gift of life, all the good that is Jesus.

Most of you are probably done with your Christmas lists, given that we are a few days away, but in case you aren’t just yet, allow me to gently remind you to just… breathe. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all. Enjoy every minute of it, however it catches you — in traffic, lounging in some café with your favorite people, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, in a mad rush, indulgent, stuffed, happy or not so, sentimental, stressed, nostalgic, chasing tradition, starting your own ritual, holding someone’s hand, whatever. No judging, no labeling. The day/moment does not have to be bad or good. It just is. This does take a bit of practice, some conscious rethinking, but the same can be so liberating.

What is there to not love about this last month of the year? The evenings are crisp and cool. My favorite Starbucks Christmas drink, the Toffee Nut Latte, is back. I do not know until when, but I sure will enjoy it while it is here. Homemade treats are exchanged in this crazy, beautiful and wonderful way, out the kitchen and straight into hearts and homes — delicious cookies and gorgeous cakes, compound butter, vinegars, special oils and salts, fruit freshly picked from privately-owned farms. Wish lists come to be, everyone becomes a fairy godfather/godmother to someone. People make an effort to keep in touch, see each other, share a meal together. We all become the best version of ourselves, we steep in happy thoughts, life is as kind as it should always be.

As I write this, I am watching the Barefoot Contessa prepare a white chocolate drink spiked with Orange Grand Marnier. Now that sounds like my kind of thing. She has just mixed, in a pot sitting on heat, four cups of milk with four cups of half-and-half. She is now cutting a big bar of white chocolate with a sharp knife and goes on to share that using chocolate chips is a no-no because it has stabilizers that will definitely take away from how luxurious this drink should be. She did not say it in those exact words, but that is my understanding. Then she gently pushes some vanilla bean into what I know for sure is a wonderful and perfect Christmas drink. A generous amount of Orange Grand Marnier is stirred into the pot after which the whole thing is transferred into a Thermos. I. Like. That. And I am going to do that at day’s end tomorrow, after dance class, as a treat.

As I enjoy the flurry of activities. I still dream of that one day when I will have enough time to make and wrap my own Christmas gifts. In my dreams, I have my own soaps, I bottle my own jams, I bake really special chocolate chip cookies (this I can actually do, thankfully). I’d love to make my own peppermint bark, and package them into pretty tins in my favorite powder blue with a touch of red. By then I would already know how to write in beautiful calligraphy my season’s Christmas greetings, seated on a comfortable chair before a big wooden table, all around me the sound of Christmas songs and laughter. What a beautiful time that will also be! But until then, I will enjoy what I have at the moment, foremost of which is family and friends. They are my real treasures.

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