atwitter: december

There’s so much to set a person atwitter in December.

rendering my beeswax: For the first time I melted down the bits of wax I’ve collected from my girls. I got a nice golden prism–enough to make into two (count ’em!) candles. I was hoping to be able to make more for gifts, but I’ve decided to save the wax from my abandoned hive for next year’s bees. Stefaneener told me how to keep it critter-free in the meanwhile with the help of a heavy-duty trash bag and a chunk of dry ice. Such smart friends I have! My remaining hive is still going strong, harvesting nectar from my just-beginning-to-bloom-in-California rosemary…

good books: How could I forget how much I love Lorrie Moore’s writing? Maybe because she hasn’t published a book in ten years? Chris gave me A Gate at the Stairs last Christmas, and somehow I didn’t start reading it until now. Dumb move. The book is fabulous. No one manages to be both snarkily funny and lyrical like Moore does. Just appreciate how she writes about a fortune cookie: “I had one elegantly folded cookie–a short paper nerve baked in an ear.” Lorrie Moore, you kill me.

cookies, cookies, cookies! We’ve only just begun (sing along)…to bake! Yesterday Mr. T and I made up the dough for our annual gingerbread tiles, which longtime readers may remember from two years ago as contender for the best Christmas cookie ever. Next up will be the other cookie that tries each year to claim the throne: David Lebovitz’s Almond and Chocolate Chunk Biscotti. (This is the first year I’ve found the recipe online and sharable!) I’m still considering a few upstart contenders for the batch after that. Maybe Remedial Eating’s version of Flo Braker’s Drei Augen (also known as linzer cookies or red currant jam sandwiches)? Or perhaps Orangette’s take on Alice Medrich’s Whole Wheat Sablés with Cacao Nibs? Or maybe her now famous rendition of Peppermint Bark? (Not a cookie, I know, but I wouldn’t kick it out of the cookie jar.) Perhaps you have another stellar cookie to recommend?

thrilling text messages: Not that I do much texting. But when you have a kid in college all the way across the country, you pick it up pretty fast. A few weeks back I received this ebullient message from that kid: “Joel Coen is speaking to my film class!” Wow. Guess all that battling with the college application monster of last December was worth it. (I’m not sure whether I was more excited with the content of the message or the fact that he cared to share it with his mama.)

fast knitting projects: The knitting really slogged this fall. Swimming lessons got me deep into my crazy gold Que Sera cardigan–but then the lace combined with decreases made for not-so-good Park Day knitting and it was as if my production button had gotten stuck on slo mo. With Christmas coming and a cold boy in New York, I put that project aside and started up a scarf–and suddenly we’re in fast forward. The stitch pattern is manly and 18-year-old-guy-approved and it lets the scarf lie gloriously flat. And the whole long thing is almost finished!

decking the halls: The advent wreath is aglow with three candles at this point in the season, but our advent box could use some more slips. (Either we all need to work harder at sharing our light, or we need to work harder at remembering to record it when we do.) The tree is wearing the equivalent of an unadorned little black dress: it’s done up in nothing but lights and garlands. Not that we’re minimalists around here–it’s just that Lulu and Mr. T want to wait for their big brother to get home before breaking out the ornaments. Which is rather sweet. There’s nothing like a Christmas tree to get you all sentimental.

turning turntables: Chris got his old turntable hooked up and is revisiting his old record collection. He only plays Rush when I’m not home to tease him about it. (Sometimes I catch him.) The other morning he cranked up Van Halen and said, “I have a song for you.” And proceeded to blast “Hot for Teacher.” Ah, the man knows all the backstreets into my heart.

You knew I’d ask: what has you all atwitter?

10 comments… add one
  • Just Peaches Dec 15, 2010 @ 7:10

    I do all of our baking early because the bake sale at school is at the beginning of December (its a great motivator). I’ve got individual Christmas cakes at the back of the pantry along with two tins of shortbread with chocolate chunks ready to pack up and give away to neighbours. This year is the first year I’ve made Christmas cakes and I’m afraid they’re a little too boozy (hmm, we’ll see).

    Two of our holiday favourites are Swedish Ginger Cookies:

    And Gingerbread biscotti (great with a mug of hot milk!):

    The pictures of your beeswax are gorgeous — I can smell it from here!

    The scarf pattern you picked is the same one I knit for my husband for Christmas (manly yes, but I like it too).

    I love that the kids want to wait to decorate the tree — very very sweet.

    • patricia Dec 16, 2010 @ 10:02

      Those Swedish ginger cookies look awfully good!

      How funny that you used the same scarf pattern. It’s a nice one, isn’t it? (Of course I read your manly yes line with an Irish accent. 😉 )

  • Kristin Dec 15, 2010 @ 10:15

    Your candle is lovely. I just made a few of them yesterday and couldn’t believe how much of my wax was required to do so. (I’m used to only grating a teaspoon here and there for my beeswax cosmetics.) I’m curious to know how fast they burn.

    Looks like your season is merry and your cookies are the bomb!

    • patricia Dec 16, 2010 @ 10:11

      They do take a lot of wax, don’t they? I was surprised, and disappointed that I couldn’t make more. Lucky you, for having lots of wax!

      I did buy some beeswax tapers for our advent wreath, and they’re beautiful. They smell just lovely, like honey, and they have a gorgeous cloudy bloom on the outside of them. They don’t seem to burn overly fast–and beeswax is known to have a very clean burn. They used to require them in churches because they wouldn’t dirty the art…

  • Caroline Dec 16, 2010 @ 0:08

    May I just second the nomination of gingerbread tiles for BCCE (Best Christmas Cookie Ever)? I made them two weeks ago for a party and have been able to think of virtually nothing else since. Good grief, what a cookie!

    (In the absence of one of those gorgeous springerle pins, I stamped mine with bracelets, a funny little jar, some marbles … such fun to go through the house looking for texture.)

    Many thanks for the new tradition and a joyful advent to you all.

    • patricia Dec 16, 2010 @ 10:21

      So glad you tried the recipe! But shame on you if you brought them all to the party–you ought to have squirreled away a little tin for yourself! They keep quite well. (If you don’t eat them first.)

      I love the idea of searching for cookie texture throughout the house. That’s creative! If you don’t want to buy a whole springerle pin, be on the lookout for single springerle molds. They’re cheaper, and they work just as well. As you know from making them, these cookies display elaborate patterns beautifully, so it’s nice to have a mold that makes the most of that.

      Joyful advent to you too, Caroline!

  • Chris Dec 16, 2010 @ 17:41

    You have no idea how many Rush fans (all guys of course) are now going to find your site and be inspired to start knitting and making Christmas cookies!

    • patricia Dec 16, 2010 @ 18:01

      And maybe if his fans would knit him some scarves, Geddy Lee would stop singing so high…

      “And what about the voice of Geddy Lee?
      How did it get so high?”

      Play me some Pavement, Baby!

  • molly Dec 26, 2010 @ 21:59

    i ran out of time to leave a comment on friday, but i had to tell you that i read your post while sitting in the high school bleachers and i seriously smiled about “hot for teacher” all weekend long. i kind of wish george and i were just a tad bit older and hadn’t missed out on records. we’re more of the tape generation 🙂

    • patricia Dec 27, 2010 @ 22:44

      Chris loves his records! Tapes were pretty big when we were in high school, but he was always a music snob and knew that LPs had better sound. His collection has been gathering dust in recent years, so he’s happy to have a turntable set up again. You never know what music will be coming out of our bedroom these days. So far tonight I’ve heard some vintage Springsteen and The Who…

      You and George are such babies!

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