Sunday, December 20, 2009

… And the goose is getting fat!

Christmas is approaching, and that means family traditions are in full swing. St. Nicholas has already visited and filled stockings, Jezisek is on track, Santa is approaching, and the Cookie Fairies have been working feverishly to satisfy family and friends. The Cookie Patrol team members are keen to start deliveries on Monday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The holiday fury really begins after Jim’s birthday on the 11th. The family makes a candy house, which is really a gingerbread house v2.0. Our neighbor Emily persuaded us that gingerbread is over-rated—it’s too stale to eat by the time the holidays are over. Now we both make a cardboard house and cover it with royal icing and transform it into a magical candy house. It’s a little less than romantic on the inside but looks colorful and cool on the outside. We gather all the decadent delectables we can find, including leftover Halloween candy and yellow dye #5-free candy from Bloomingfoods, and put everything in wooden bowls. Each family member picks a side of the house, where the two prime locations include both a side and a roof. The real trick as the project coordinator is to minimize munching on the construction materials—I guess we’re a little like the Fraggles eating the Doozer constructions. After Christmas we rip off whatever hasn’t frozen into the icing over a window of a few days.

Yesterday was supposed to be blog day, but it turned into cookie baking day. The annual cookie fest is Tommie’s favorite part of the holidays, since he’s a big baking fan. Yesterday we made five different kinds of cookies: Zebra cookies, even better than the Scholar’s Inn (and smaller); Vanilkove rohliky (you probably know them as Russian tea cakes, but we Czechs don’t); a thin sandwich cookie with cherry plum filling and rum and almond icing (they’re delicious!); chocolate sugar cookies that we iced and decorated; and my traditional favorite, medvedovy tlapky (bear paws). We mixed and rolled and baked and iced and decorated like crazy all day long. I also made marzipan from scratch and marinated some fruit to put into the Stollen we’ll bake today, plus we’re planning to make some date pinwheels and thumbprint cookies today. Eleven tins are filled and placed out of reach in the pantry.

It’s been a good art week too! Most importantly, I finished my Autumn Aspens commission piece. It has more variation in depth and I’m pleased with how it has turned out. I spent an afternoon with in the Creek-Love Classroom, aka the multiage schoolroom that is the home to my second grader Jacob. This week we worked on a wet felting project using Merino noils. The coveted fibers from combing are the long fibers, or top, and the shorter fibers are called noils. They’re not useful for needle felting, but it turns out they’re great for wet felting. I got these from my friends Nancy and Pat at Sheep Street in Morgantown, where I’ll return later today for more goodies. The kids have been making felt balls that we’re going to use to embellish gourds in a project we’ll do when the weather warms up a little. The kids love to do projects like this, and they enjoy teaching their friends how to do it. It’s cool to them because it’s new, even though a couple of them are from sheep-raising families, and they’ve seen me working on felted ornaments in class. Even some of the parents in the classroom wanted to make one.

But now I have to run! There are presents to wrap, cookies to bake, plans to make and kids to keep half an eye on. If you have kids you know why this season is so full of energy and special. I hope you all have a terrific holiday season!

Until next week…

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