Friday, December 22, 2006

Finally ready for Christmas day of shop-till-you-drop, a half-dozen packages wrapped and shipped, and three dozen mini-breads later

...Really, I have to get a handle on this Christmas preparation thing. I wear myself out every year, even though I tell myself that things have gotten easier since the kids have grown!

First of all, it just would not feel like Christmas if I didn't make my various
quick breads to give as little gifts. This personal tradition of mine goes back so far that its origin is lost somewhere in holiday lore. Date-nut, cranberry-orange, and almond are the perennial stand-bys, and then there's always a new variety or two. This year I discovered French vanilla flavoring extract in the baking section, so I thought I'd try it. No, I did not say Freedom vanilla! And anyway, who knows what's even French about it. But it makes the breads smell heavenly as they're baking. It's a bit sweeter and has more character (as the wine connoisseurs would say) than the regular vanilla extract. So now I've added a French vanilla-nut bread to my repertoire. By doubling the recipes I can turn out up to 8 mini-loaves of each variety per batch. I made a third batch last night ... bringing the total to almost 3 dozen....of course, the first 20 or so have already been distributed, mostly to colleagues.

Last evening's batch of mini-breads will be distributed this evening at the annual Christmas party that one of the moms continues to host at her house since the days when our kids were babies and we all met once a week for "play group." The first-born of the group have just completed their first semester at college. The menu has always been spaghetti or lasagna and meatballs, salad, and Italian bread. I've been the contributor of the meatballs for the last few years.

Time was when one of the dads would grab his guitar and he and I would accompany the kids on a caroling tour of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the other moms would clean up after dinner, make coffee and cocoa, and set out dessert. One of the moms continues to make Christmas cookies that are true miniature works of art ... still, I have no problem whatsoever eating as many as I can stuff down.

Nowadays the kids go out caroling by themselves. Amazing!
I don't have to shop for toys anymore, but I've managed to fill my free time with other activities. Each year I seem to begin the Christmas preparations --sending cards and doing the (fortunately) small amount of gift purchasing that I have to do-- later and later. Last week our Amnesty International chapter hosted a Global Write-a-thon, and my job was to get model letters enlarged for copying by the guests. We netted over 125 letters on behalf of prisoners! Then this First Day the kids at our Friends Meeting did their annual "Christmas in the Fields" play. No one knows why it's called Christmas in the Fields. Maybe someone out there in Quakerdom knows... Anyway, I offered to accompany the caroling and, as it had been about 15 years since I strummed a chord, I had to spend considerable time practicing. The kids did a cute little skit, featuring Gandhi, MLK, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Tubman, and Isaac Hopper talking about non-violent activism.

The day before the pageant, I had done my first bit of Christmas be completed the day after the pageant....and then several items had to get shipped by mail this year to relatives who will not be stopping by.

One bit of simplification: I did substitute contributions to the AFSC in the name of several relatives and friends instead of buying them something. Determined to do more of that!

Of course, they still got homemade mini-breads!

loaf from
carolers from
tinpan at Fortunecity

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