What day is it? How’d we get so close to Christmas so quickly? Looks like a lot of things are going to get done a little later than usual, but then, a faster pace of life has become the usual. Maybe it’s time to get a littler list of things to do. I can do that, I think.
Here I sit, just about ten days from Christmas, and I haven’t started my main Christmas baking. Once upon a time I did so much baking that I’d go through about $200 of raw materials: eggs, sugar, flour, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate. The most time consuming baking was dozens of individual, tiny nut rolls. One session would take about five hours. They were my faves. A dozen of those and a tall glass of milk would kick off flashbacks of playing Battleship with my brothers. The easiest, cheapest, and sweetest were what one friend called Igneous Brownies. Chocolate, butter, sugar, and just enough eggs and flour to make the batter flow across a sheet pan into a form that looked like Hawaiian lava. My ironic favorite was fruitcake, the much maligned, rarely appreciated fruitcake. I don’t see what the jokes are about, but then, baking a fruitcake from scratch with organic ingredients and months of patience is not common, evidently. For a while I listened to the jokes and I quit making them – and found out they were missed and the number of requests doubled the number I usually made.
That $200 shopping trip doesn’t happen anymore. The $200 is harder to find; and various doctors have steered me away from sugar and wheat. Take away those ingredients and try to make something from eggs, butter, dried fruits, and nuts. Sounds like a weird omelet.
Decorations have changed, too. Instead of driving to the store and buying a wreath of pine boughs, I walk out into the yard, harvest some epic rosemary, and make a fragrant wreath in less time than it takes to drive to the store. As a flourish, I added a late autumn rose from the rose bush. A rose in the rosemary seems appropriate – and makes me wonder how rosemary got the word rose in its name. The outdoor tree that would normally be draped in lights didn’t survive another season. In its place is a sprig, a six foot tall sprig, of holly from a friend’s vacant lot. Wrap it in some lights bought at discount last year, and in the dark most folks may not notice the difference. I hope to get a Charlie Brown tree the same way this weekend. (Anyone in the neighborhood trying to clear a weed pine or fir from their yard? Send me a note.)
Gifts are changing, regardless of my financial condition. Friends and family are getting older and downsizing. People are shedding rather than accumulating. Consumables are gaining popularity. Food, wines, candles, and books (you know I write books, right?) turn into great combinations for winter evenings. Instead of about three gifts per person, there may only be three or four gifts under the tree, and that’s fine. I enjoyed a tweet I saw go by that echoed what I’ve said before. Want to give an author a gift without spending money? Review their book and post it online. Get a local library or book club to talk about it. Help them arrange a reading or a signing and it might actually make them money. An author making money? That’s a rare treat!
My holiday To Do list is getting shorter because my work To Do list got longer. Some of you know that I recently became a real estate broker. (Thanks for the support and encouragement.) Being a broker didn’t replace my other jobs, it added to them. That may be the main reason I got to the middle of December without realizing there was less than half the month remained before a very definite day off. Baking, packing, and shipping in time for the 25th is only going to happen if the 25th happens to be in January. (That’s another fine day worth celebrating, but that’s another story.)
Americans live at too fast a pace, in general. That seems to be especially true for those working in the Gig Economy. Days off = lost income. Considering the price of housing and health insurance, days off can put some very basic needs at risk. Ideally, we’d be able to slow down, at least tap the brakes, and find a balance in life. For about 20%-40% of Americans (depending on how financial health is measured), slowing down isn’t an option. There is overwhelming evidence that working less is healthy, that relaxing is healthy, that exercise, meditation, and even socializing are healthy; but there’s an unspoken assumption that is invalid for that 20%-40%. Advice is great – as long as you can pay your bills (ALAYCPYB). It may not be a handy acronym, and it can’t be easily pronounced, but it is a reality for tens of millions of Americans.
That daily time crunch is a reality that is heightened during the holidays. The anxieties are easily amplified with the emphasis on buying gifts, dressing up, and decorating homes.
I miss the big piles of presents under the tree, but I also enjoy my small house and don’t want to fill it with stuff for the sake of stuff. There will be some good sales after the holidays when I can pick up an item or two. I miss feasting with friends, but navigating around my dietary restrictions and wanting to lose weight make too many feasts too much of a good thing. I’ll save my feasting for one or two days when I can concentrate on cooking, baking, aromas, flavors, and sharing with friends. Decorating is fun, but I enjoy a subtler touch that doesn’t pump out so much light that the inside looks like the outside is surrounded by spotlights.
That may change if I win the lottery jackpot; but then I’ll have enough money to pay my bills, have extra time to fill, and can indulge in generosity again. (And, no, I didn’t win the $229M Powerball lottery. Maybe next time.)
In the meantime, I’ll make a few apologies (sorry about not getting the nut rolls baked), I’ll be thankful for a reason and an excuse to honor my most cherished traditions, and I’ll enjoy the necessity of a littler To Do list. And maybe, maybe, I’ll get around to making the Igneous Brownies. There should always be enough room for at least one easy indulgence.
If you want a list of charities on the island, check out my post on AboutWhidbey.com.
If you want some choices for Christmas cards, I’ve got a site for those, too.