Wednesday, December 24, 2008


We've been baking a bit.

So much so that I've re-named that powdered white product formerly known as Sugar.

Around here, you'll hear it referred to as Christmas Crack.

Divinity, the Devil's candy, calls for powdered sugar and corn syrup. I think it was very early marketing genius to name it "divinity." But a wolf in sheep's clothing, still.

Icing for the sugar cookies. Um. The cookies are made with sugar and butter, and then we put some nearly liquid sugar on top with a little food coloring for good measure. I find the food coloring is especially helpful in ensuring children sleep well at this time of year.

Cranberry Hooties. Hooties? Who names these things? They're oatmeal and cranberry bars, people. Just some grain and fruit cleverly holding the sugar together in a cookie bar with a vaguely disturbing name.

Cardamom bread. Now this, and I kid you not, has made my Christmas. My Finnish grandmother made cardamom bread around the calendar, but it's still a Christmas must when baking. And as a bonus... no sugar.

My grandmother died four and a half years ago. So an hour ago when I was kneading the dough, aromatic with fresh-crushed cardamom, and 8-year-old Sarah paused in the kitchen to say, "smells like Mumuu's house," I of course immediately dissolved into a puddle of (sugary) tears.

Traditions are funny that way. Some we're conscious of creating. As parents we do some things simply because our children's childhoods make more sense with traditions. It's not particularly fun to make sugar cookies and spread icing from one end of the house to the other. But it wouldn't be a proper child's Christmastime without the opportunity to press the shape of a tree and a wreath and the bells into dough, drop the coloring into icing with abandon, spend hours with flour on our cheeks and sprinkles stuck in our hair.

Some traditions are so entrenched we didn't even know how important they were.

And, by the way, my photos have nothing to do whatsoever with this post. Laura likes to take her baths in the kitchen sink. I like to force my husband to pull over so I can shoot little white churches. The camera is storing up the happiness for me, so I can pull the memories up thanks to the miracle of Random Access Memory. Or is that Read Only Memory? Whatever. They're my memories.
I have a longtime habit of comforting myself with pretty pictures. I used to raid my mother's photo albums when I was a little girl. How much better is it to have a large hard drive and a huge stack of CDs... all mine! Anyway that was me at 11 years old, sitting in the closet with a sheaf of square snapsots and some C.S. Lewis books, breathing through Constant Comment teabags, making the world perfect from my perspective.
I have just a minute between kneading dough and braiding Christmas Eve hair to sit in my (closet of an) office with a cup of tea, a year's worth of pictures, and you. While the world looks much more complicated than it did once, it's still pretty wonderful from here.
Merry Christmas to all!


Andrea said...

I love that the pictures have nothing to do with the post!! :) And I too have this thing with old white churches. They are very neat.

And I too, have wondered why and how some candies have recieved their names. This year was my first year ever having divinity. And it was yum!!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

Farm Chick Paula said...

LOL I'm with you Miriam... whoever thought up Cranberry Hooties for a name must have been a little disturbed!!
Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas!!

Shonda Little said...

My grandfather also died during this time of year, before my children were born in fact, so this time of year is always bittersweat in knowing that he didn't get to meet them.

Sugar isn't the only Christmas crack at our house. All things Christmas are some all-consuming addiction. I took the tree down today and the four year old just freaked the eff out.

Katie said...

You big crack head! I have taken to carrying "crack" in my purse, it helps to take the edge off when you are in the car for 18 hours straight and suffering from the worst back pain of your life....but I digress. LOL!

Can't wait to get home an huff some constant comment bags and swap stories with ya.