The Days Behind: Christmas Week

Saturday: The November food costs from Dept of Agriculture posted. I thought you might like to see where your family falls on the government guides. Ours is still below the thrifty plan...and remember this is for food only, does not include those sundry other things we might buy at the grocery.

I had no dinner plans when I went to bed last night and therefore nothing thawed and no prep work done but as I lay awake at one point in the wee hours, wooing sleep to return, I suddenly thought that perhaps BBQ chicken sliders would be good. It would use up some 'odds and ends' mustard based Bbq sauce I'd made up and was stretchable to serve extras if anyone more than John and I were at dinner. It must have been the perfect solution because I went right off back to sleep immediately. I popped frozen chicken breasts into the crockpot this morning and cooked on high for four hours. As it happened no one but myself was home come dinner time, John having gone off to help Sam put the last touches on the master bedroom, but Sam later came by with John and stayed long enough to eat. He and John both pronounced this meal as super good and Sam suggested I make that for the next family gathering we have. I thought about the fact that I have no idea how to make the Bbq sauce once again, lol, which is what happens when you use up the ends of a bottle of this and that!

I mentioned my fruitcakes in last week's post. They took about three hours to bake and then were to sit for 20 minutes and cool in the pan. This is far longer than I'm accustomed to letting any cake sit and cool but I followed the directions. And both stuck. Ack. Never mind. I pieced them back together and let them cool and they apparently sort of stuck back together. I let them cool and wrapped with waxed paper and put into the plastic bread bags I'd bought. The recipes I read said these may be eaten as soon as cool and I'll admit the crumbs I pulled from the bottom of the pans were awesome. They will sit and ripen about ten days, though Sam and I shared a slice today and 'tested' the taste. It was good and not at all bad for a first try but not perfect fruitcake. Part of my idea of perfect as always must be to find a balance between store bought cakes and how 'real' ones turn out.

I've since done a lot of reading about fruitcake and I think I'll change up this recipe a bit and do a few things differently as far as baking goes. And in the meantime, I soaked linen napkins in orange juice and wrapped the cakes and then rewrapped them. I've stored them in the pantry closet in the back which stays cooler than the house and is dark but isn't by any means cold. What a treat they will be come New Year's Day. and out all the time these days so that the odd days when no one does pop it feel odd. Bess came by this morning and dropped off something John had asked to borrow. I saw the boys and gave them lollipops and kisses. That stinking little Isaac blatantly ignored me in favor or Grampa whom he called Grampa and not Papa as he'd been calling him. When asked what MY name was he looked at John and said "Bye Grampa..." Rat!

Sam came in with John after their work and had lunch with him (I'd eaten on my own a good hour or so earlier after waiting too long for him to reappear). And then Katie called asking if I'd keep the littlest boy while she took Taylor to get her ears pierced which is her Christmas gift from herself to Taylor this year. Of course, I kept that baby and chuckled over his broadness. He's now eating 4 ounces every three hours, regular as clockwork. Later Taylor came in to show us her earrings and since it was time for Caleb to eat once more, I fed him while Katie did some computer-y thing for John while Taylor 'read' me a story. What a lovely day it's been with just enough family visits to make my heart sing with happiness.

dinner today: BBQ chicken sliders, dill pickles and chips

Keeping Christmas: "It's A Wonderful Life", a movie I do enjoy greatly but which John dislikes because of the scene with Mr. Potter and Uncle Billy. My favorite portion of the movie is when Clarence shows George how his life was of deep importance to everyone in his community. I watched the bulk of this while John was gone this afternoon, then managed to finish it before Katie arrived with the baby.

Sunday: It's been raining since last night. Really, the last thing we need more of is rain but that's just my opinion. What do I know? I believe God gives all things in good measure and obviously we must need the rain though I don't know it. But it's fact that the yard is FULL and the ditchs are FULL and the carport is flooded.

I made cheese grits for breakfast and used the last piece of Kielbasa in them. It was good! Hot cereal on a rainy cold morning hits the spot.

We skipped taking trash off, since it was raining so heavy when we left to go to church.

This is what I wore to church today. I wasn't nearly so grim as I look. I was just trying to make sure I focused the camera properly.

So I wore the silver gray cable knit 3/4 sleeve sweater with the white button down blouse underneath.

The brooch is one that belonged to Big Mama. She gave it to me when I was about six. Granny and I been taking Big Mama home after a day of shopping. Big Mama was wearing the brooch and the sunlight kept hitting the thing and making the loveliest sparkles all over the car headliner. I must've commented on it three or four dozen times. When we arrived at Big Mama's she stepped from the car, stopped and turned back and unpinned the brooch from her dress and handed it to me. Now you know what a treasure I considered it that I kept it in immaculate condition all my childhood years and have now had it for almost 55 years.

I felt very special that day when she handed this brooch to me, and I feel special each time I put it on and wear it!

After church we stopped by the grocery. I picked up an Eye of Round roast and soda for John. I got a couple of pre-made burgers from the meat counter too which made a quick lunch for us. We got pretty well chilled and damp though not, thankfully, soaked. I had a rain coat and umbrella, John says he walks between raindrops but his hat and jacket caught what he missed going between, lol.

While our lunch was good and hot, this sort of weather makes me most interested in soup. I put on a pot of potato soup before I even got burgers on the table for dinner.

After dinner I cleared up the kitchen...twice. I emptied the dishwasher and started loading it again. It seems that's the way it always goes. Some things just automatically refill: laundry, dishwasher, trash...I made the frosting to go on the carrot cake.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah...Our potato soup will be the treat tonight.

dinner today: Burgers with all the fixings, Chips

Keeping Christmas: Today's service was nothing but Chritmas carols (all the good old fashioned sort) and candlelight. It was lovely, truly lovely, and to stand near the front of the church as we were and look back towards the risers and see shining candles was absolutely the most beautiful thing.

Monday: I don't know why I 'fell awake' last night at 1:30 but there I was and there I stayed until 5am this morning. I did finally get a couple of more hours rest.

I had planned a cookie baking day with the grandchilren. I had Taylor, Josh and Isaac in the kitchen with me. Caleb stayed in Grandpa's arms...I remember doing such parties with Katie and her friends but y'all...Four and five year olds and an almost three year old are a whole different thing. Isaac was the only one who paid attention to me and dutifully took up pinches of sugar to put on his cookies and the only one who got caught eating the sugar, lol. They did very well indeed. For their age group to get a sheet pan of cookies each cut out and decorated is a LOT. Each one had a bag of cookies to take home.

Here they are with Isaac caught red handed (literally!) and red mouthed.

Josh was the most meticulous of the children. I had a hard time getting him to fill up his pan, so we could finish this task but fortunately none of my pans are small enough that another can fit in the oven alongside so it worked out.

I knew that they were going to get hungry before cookies were finished baking so I went ahead and made up homemade pizzas. Glad I did. That and an apple and a cookie suited them all.

I was pretty well done in by the time I'd corralled children and made cookies and cleared up two or three times, lol. Glad I had nice single serves of two different meals in the freezer which became a hot supper for us tonight. I used leftover cookie dough and the silver glitter to make Hanukkah Stars for our treat tonight.

dinner today: Pizzas with the children

Tuesday: One day I hope the only reason I am ever up at 5:30 am will be because we're heading off on vacation...NOT because John must be at work, lol. Well, retirement may be coming right up but he's committed to hiring on as part time so the 5:30 am wake up alarms will go on for another year once he's retired...Still, a girl can dream of St. Augustine trips, right?

Made John's breakfast. Packed his lunch which was primarily leftovers: pizza from yesterday's family meal and Bbq Chicken sliders from Saturday's dinner.

I had thought I'd hang out sheets and towels today but it was heavy and gray and gloomy until well past 10am and by that point I'd long since determined laundering clothes was pointless and made my bed. Naturally all that lovely sunshine and warm breeze is appreciated wafting through the house at present, especially after five gloomy days and three rainy ones.

Having been up for so long this morning and it appearing I was not going to be stripping the bed, once housework was done I showered and gave myself a sort of spa day. By the end, I had a fresh mani and pedi as well. Lovely! I haven't taken this sort of time for myself in a few months now. No clue why. I always feel so pampered and indulged when I'm all done.

Baked the only other batch of cookies I mean to make this Christmas. In a way, it feels like a bit of a let down but on the other hand, I just don't want a glutton of sweets about. I'm pretty sure getting into those black jeans is going to be impossible as it is and I'll have to start all over again. I made the jam thumbprint cookies that Sam and Katie fight over each year. They will each get about a dozen and a half and we'll have less than a dozen for us here, which is just about right I think.

Missing those Christmas cookies I've made up my mind to do a few things in the New Year. I want to make one cake, one pie and one batch of cookies each month in the coming year. Knowing that summer months can be terribly hot, I plan to bake ahead in Spring and put baked goods into the freezer. Naturally I have several good no bake pie recipes to see us through Summer, but plain cake layers and cookies can be easily frozen and used all through the hottest months of the year. I'll just double up when I'm baking in the Spring. I may even try my hand at 'baking' in my crockpot...It can be done you know!

Carried off trash. It had piled up these last few days in the back part of the kitchen. It isn't smelly trash thank goodness, mostly courtesy of the fact that I keep a compost bucket for veg and fruit scraps.

Having carried off the trash I had opportunity to experience the lovely weather outdoors, so came back home and opened all the windows. Fresh air does no harm to anything. And you can bet with all that sunshine outdoors there's not a lightbulb burning indoors except the Christmas lights which I pretty much have on from first rising until bedtime most days.

Speaking of compost, did you know that you can compost a variety of things besides fruit and vegetable peels? Like newspaper, paper towels, tissues, shredded paper or newspapers (black and white only), paper coffee filters, cardboard. My pest control man tells us to keep cardboard away from your house and shed, because it breeds termites.

I wanted 'something' for lunch today. Having no clue what that something might be, I refused to go elsewhere to purchase edible foods and dug about in the freezer instead. I found a frozen chicken pot pie and I feel pretty sure that will be the 'something' that satisfies me, especially since I'm just plain hungry due to eating so early with John this morning and not necessarily hungry for anything in particular.

dinner today: all meals on my own

Keeping Christmas: Baking my youngest children's favorite Christmas cookies.

If what Clarence said is true, that every time a bell rings an angel gets it's wings, then heaven is filling up with angels first class today. The breeze has been ringing the bell on my windchime steadily. And what lovelier thing can you think to have happen on a Christmas Eve than to add to the ranks of the angels?

Christmas Day: I couldn't sleep last night. I said to myself I must've been keeping watch for Santa but I never saw him come. I watched nearly all of Season 3 of Downton Abby which is a glut of lovely fashions, good story lines and awesome long shots of the English countryside.

I dragged myself off to bed around 3:30 and went right to sleep...And woke promptly at 7 this morning.

In the evening hours, last night I did some simple prep work: set eggs in a pan of water and put on the stove ready to boil for breakfast, got out a pan for cinnamon rolls, and a frying pan for the little smokies sausages that are traditional for holiday mornings here. This morning I started dinner prep, grating cheese and steaming cauliflower, topping and tailing the green beans and setting the cake out to come to room temperature.

I would love to tell you what an awesome morning we had. It began with John coming in from work a little brusque, not upset or angry but tired. Then attempting to fix a leaky faucet (one more day wouldn't have made a bit of difference) that turned into a major task before it was over and isn't fixed yet. A decline to come out by Katie, a fly by irritable visit from Sam and boys who were apparently overtired and a delayed meal as faucet stretched into second hour of work. Not the Christmas I dreamed of, but it was the one I had. After dinner things settled into a peaceable lull and that was far better.

Y'all...My husband did a great job on my Christmas gifts. He was determined to 'keep on giving' this year. A few weeks ago he handed me a thick Complete Jewish Bible, with the books of Maccabees and Judith and a few other minor prophets included. I was pretty pleased with that but he wasn't done. That was in addition to the Keurig and the new crock pot. His final gift was given to me this morning.

I failed algebra badly all through junior high and high school despite repeated tries at passing the necessary classes. When I did get through them I swear it was more the teacher took pity on me. I've always said I'd like to try now to learn algebra and master it...So John got me two Pre-Algebra books, teacher manuals for homeschoolers with answer keys in the back so I can check my work. It might sound silly but I was so pleased!

dinner today: Eye of Round Roast Beef, Cauliflower au gratin, Pan steamed green beans, Carrot Cake

Keeping Christmas: Honestly...the best we could. Windows open, enjoying photos of little boys and just letting tired folks do their best to not be tired.

And though I didn't get to see him today, what about this photo of my littlest Santa?

Thursday: We had oatmeal for breakfast. This morning I added a banana to each bowl since we had two that were very nearly over ripe. It was rather nice. I forget how much I like cooked bananas.

John washed two loads of clothes and hung a few items to dry.

I washed a full load of dishes.

The mission today was to tend to some pre-retirement paperwork and then purchase a new faucet. John made this mission fun because he suggested we go on to a town within 20 miles of where we needed to go for the paperwork. Not in our usual shopping area at all, although the are we were visiting was our home for nearly 16 years. He also stuck to the rural backroads for the most part. It was a very nice day out and we rode with the windows down.

I picked up a tilling tool, something I've wanted for quite some time for future gardening ventures. This is strictly by hand use but should make the job of breaking up soil for flower and vegetable beds a whole lot easier and since I am my main garden crew and sole boss of the enterprise of landscaping the yard, I'll do what I think I can with this tool. Mine is called a soil ripper.

Picked up two Amaryllis bulbs for $3 each. And watched as they both rang up for far more. One just 40c more but the other for $3 more. That's $3.49 I wanted back in my pocket! The clerk easily adjusted the prices.

And we got our faucet. We came out with nothing more than the items on our list (except the Soil Ripper) and that was that.

We took a longer leisurely drive home. We'd discussed our lunch plans and were heading to our hometown but about halfway there we agreed we'd take the longer route to the county seat and try the Chinese restaurant there. It was reasonable and really good and we had enough food for supper tonight.

Once home, we installed the new faucet. No more leaky drip and no more worries for the next few years I hope.

What I wore: I do not have a lot of clothing for these warmer days so I wore something I've worn before. I put on the white shirt with black stripes and aqua pattern on it and the black jeans. Good news, the black jeans do still fit!

Friday: I was up at my usual hour. John had been up for a bit and was hungry so straight into breakfast preparations for me.

Big housework day today. John vacuumed, I swept and cleaned and partially took down decorations but left a few things up for the winter months. I'm happy with what I've done thus far. I've left the tree up and the things on the mantle wall. The stuff on the wall is up still only because I've no clear idea what I want to put there in place of these things.

I went out and broke up a nice little piece of the future flower bed using my new tool. The ground is still just wet enough to allow me to pierce it easily and I was pleased with the way this tool worked. I didn't push too hard on this as I have no desire to put out my back or shoulders by overdoing. However, I look forward to my next opportunity to get out and work on that patch.

John is a former locksmith. Katie needed an extra housekey and asked if he'd make one for her. He did so today.

After noon I realized I'd done no food prep at all. Freezer to the rescue yet again. I had just enough chicken taco filling to fill tacos for a quick lunch. It was delicious and well appreciated.

Katie and family came out this afternoon to visit. Sam came by as well. He'd called before hand so I got to speak to both boys who are sick at present. I love these days of family popping in! I was telling John earlier today as we ate lunch about shredding a journal and though I've made it a point not to read anything, as I waited for pages to load I glanced at one paragraph in which four years ago I related a regret that I'd not visited Amie and children more often when they lived closer by and that I hoped to look back in the next twenty years and say I had taken every opportunity to spend time with my family in the days I'd lived since. I was overcome with tears when I told him, "And I look back and realize just four years later I have!"

Our evening was lovely: Hanukkah candles lit, Shabat, supper, Christmas tree alight. I know it's coming down in a couple of days and I want to enjoy it these last few days.

Have a terrific weekend!

(C) Terri Cheney

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