Celebrating

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Last night’s annual tradition, cuddling together, though this year in front of the most Christmas-y scented tree(!), and reading Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. I read aloud until emotion overwhelms and Greg must finish the story. It never disappoints.

I started the cinnamon rolls last night, a fine use of time, if ever there was, the spicy-buttery scent that filled the house this morning almost as delicious as the taste on my tongue. Later, I will make a southern-leaning feast of ham, cranberries, apple coleslaw, and cornbread.

This is Christmas for us, being alone together, two almost-hermits. We have a wealth of friends and family, engaging, lively, thoughtful, who surround themselves with well-populated groups. I find my person so different and overwhelmed in these spaces. My comfort is to find quiet, alone in observation, or to focus on a single thread or voice.

On Christmas, it is Greg’s, my favorite, without pretense or demand, guilt or obligation. These fine days punctuated by dog sighs and licks. We listen to soul-stirring music. We wear pajamas all day and glide about like the oldest of dance partners, each anticipating the other’s movement and responding in kind – cooking, baking, conversing, cleaning.

This is the great privilege of being grown. Choosing, as much as we can, how life unfolds, filled with the joys of the finest people and places, sights and sounds. It is the best life I know.

Here’s hoping for the best life you know – today and in the year to come.

In honor of my Grandpa and the last bite he ever took, my recipe for biscochitos. These are a traditional Christmas cookie of New Mexico, and in my version, are heady with anise. If you aren’t as much of a fan as I am of this delightful seed, cut the amount in half, and you’ll still have a pretty stellar cookie. Also, these are traditionally made with lard. As I find sourcing the freshest lard a bit of a challenge, I make the butter and shortening combination for what I think is the best flavor.

3 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)

1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup shortening (or very fresh lard)

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons port or sweet red wine

cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

Stir together flour, anise, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and shortening until fluffy. Add egg, sugar, and wine, beat until light. Stir in flour. Divide in two portions for easy rolling. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll on floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Cut into your favorite shape(s) and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. You can also gild the lily by adding some crushed anise seed to the mixture (I do!). Arrange on sheet pan and bake at 350 for about 9 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container.

I highly recommend eating biscochitos with a glass of the port or wine used to make them.

Enjoy!

For a a very long time, and for no reason good enough to fathom, I didn’t like red-hot pokers. I’d see them on our Portland ambles and regard them with disdain. Silly me, because, as I have obviously come to know, they are pretty fabulous. Hummingbirds and bees love them, too! Since the garden is in its nascent stage, I only have four of them in blossom at the moment, which, truth be told, looks kind of sad. On their own, however, smiling for the camera, they are right gorgeous. This one is T A L L, too, nearly as tall as I am! Insert snickers about my height here, but that’s darned impressive for a flower.

This is a volunteer something or other. I’ll let you know if it produces anything edible!

Testament to our Portland-esque weather as of late – there are scads of mushrooms all around the town, these being the finest specimens.

The lily pond at our local park is also in fine form. So many blossoms!

Practically perfect Palisade peach pie. Homemade! For my Portland peeps, the Palisade peach has the same gravitas as a Hermiston Melon. So, you know, deeelicious.

We rise at the same hour of the day, witnessing the changing of the season, darker and darker we go. What a sweet reward to ascend the wee hills of Palmer Park to witness the splendor of morning. How I love the light!

This past weekend, we spent a busy Saturday up north, enjoying brunch with my parents, games and treats with my Grandpa, and an adorable Wonder Woman birthday party for my cousin’s sixth birthday. I brought my camera, of course, but bumps along the road turned it on and drained my battery. I had this perfect frame, my sweet cousin giddy at the sight of a cascade of bubbles, but could not take the shot. I was heart sick – a wonderful moment and nothing to show for it. After I fretted for a bit about it, I realized it was a gift. Rather than dashing around the party, trying to get the perfect shot, I sat happily in one place, still-like and very present. I heard all the whoops and hollers; crunches of chips and bites of cake; the splash of water; and voices – of children, parents, family, and friends. How lucky I was not to have missed it.

You must not ever stop being whimsical.

Mary Oliver

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Happy 24th Wedding Anniversary to US!

At last, as I hoped, we received our best snow well into spring, two storms in one week, beautifully blanketing the land, finally whitening our most revered neighbor, and sending Juni B. into paroxysms of glee!

I, this morning, with remnants of meals past, made a most delicious bread pudding, not quite in celebration, because it wasn’t as deliberate as that, but certainly elevating the mood of the day.

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