Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas traditions: simplifying while keeping the important things

Is anyone else asking how can Christmas be here already? In my case, it must be because I’m working from home now and I don’t watch television, so I’m not exposed to the reminders, the elves and lights and Christmas music in elevators.

We’re hosting my husband’s East Coast relatives for an early dinner tomorrow, as we do every year. My husband’s family is very close, and they get together for every major holiday, hosted by one of the families. Most of them live in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and since we moved to Virginia eight years ago, we don’t get to as many of these get-togethers as we’d like to, but they are all kind enough to schlep out our way on Christmas, so we can see each other.

It’s quieter now that the cousins’ children are all grown. A few have children of their own. But the days of tearing wrapping paper and screeches of delight are, for the most part, over. My husband’s parents were the hosts for Christmas for a long time but we took over at least 12 years ago (though we might’ve missed a year here or there). The menu is always the same, and the highlight for me is my father’s stuffing, which is made with smoked Portuguese chorizo. It used to be an ordeal trying to find Portuguese chorizo but thank goodness for Wegman’s: they now carry it in our area.

For desserts, I usually make my specialties, a four-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and cheesecake. The carrot cake is a knockout, almost a fruitcake as it’s dense with raisins, coconut, pineapple, walnuts and carrots. I’ve made it four times this month alone, it’s so popular. This year we’re supplementing with a gorgeous seven-layer cake sent as a gift. One year when we lived in Maryland, we ordered eclairs made by a local man. He made then for the summer festivals, where I’d had one and was blown away. A Frenchman would probably faint: they’re not proper or fancy, and were huge, as big as an adult’s slipper. We cut each into three pieces and even those were a challenge to finish.

This month has been so busy I didn’t have time to decorate or shop, and I hope no one will be disappointed. For presents, there’ll be a big box of books and everyone can choose one (or more) that looks interesting. Lazy, yes, but well-intentioned. And, arguably, better for you than a box of chocolates.

The reason I’ve been so busy is because I’m writing. I’ve decided to try to write a spy novel, and have been working with my agent to put together a proposal. Then just as I turned in the synopsis, I got an idea for another book. A straight historical this time, no supernatural things going on. It’s so much fun to write, I can barely tear myself away from the computer to attend to holiday duties.

What about you? Have you been able to keep up with holiday requirements this season, or are you—like me—simplifying in order to get it all done? What food are you looking forward to making, or eating? What will you do on boxing day, after all the excitement is over? 

1 comment:

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