holiday greetings

Brent's Christmas Chelsea Buns

We’ve all been trying to recover from our colds and get ready for our increasingly simplified Christmas celebration. My talented-baker-spouse B felt well enough this Christmas Eve morning to be up early and baking. He made these awesome Chelsea buns based on a Paul Hollywood recipe. They are delicious! Bonus: There are so many buns and so few of us that we will have them for Christmas morning, too.

May the light and hope of Hanukkah and the peace and good will of Christmas settle on people of all nations, tongues, and beliefs.

Taking down Christmas

Today, we observe Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the magi. It’s also a family tradition to take down our Christmas tree today. Often, B does most of that work, although I think T and I will help today. It’s always a bit sad to take down the tree, although this is longest time we have ever had a tree up as we got it early in order to have it to celebrate St. Nicholas Day in advance of E and ABC’s holiday trip to London. I was afraid the tree would not last all these weeks, but it has held up well, only shedding a few needles. LEDs help to keep the needles from drying out, as they sometimes did with the old incandescent light strings.

Our tree this year wound up being decorated with mostly non-breakable ornaments. There are a few fragile ones in the top third, safely out of ABC’s reach. She was very interested in the ornaments as they were put up, carrying them around and sometimes taking them back off the tree, but once it was all decorated, she (mostly) left them up.

It is probably just as well that she is still in the UK. When she comes back mid-month, the living room will be back to normal, except with a few new toys and books to strew across the braided rug.
*****
Join us for Just Jot It January. Today’s pingback link is here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/06/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-6th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

blue Christmas

Several years ago, I attended a Blue Christmas service, led by a pastor-friend. It is a service during Advent to help those who are experiencing loss or struggles, acknowledging that the Christmas season is difficult in their circumstances.

It would have been beneficial to attend such a service this year.

I have been preoccupied with caregiving responsibilities and concerns over these last months, which don’t pause just because it is December. I outsourced nearly all the Christmas preparations to my family, even sending holiday cards and letters, which has long been one of my highest priorities. I couldn’t make myself try to sum up what has been a complex year, so spouse B and daughter T wrote a letter instead.

One of the blessings of this year, though, has been that our Christmas celebration has been elongated, starting with St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, which we observed so that we could celebrate with daughter E and granddaughter ABC before they left to spend several weeks with son-in-law L and his family in London. My older sister and her husband came to visit weekend before last. T and I attended Christmas Eve mass at 6:00 last night, with the instrumental ensemble and choir and the handbell choir. T loves handbells and ringing, so it was wonderful to hear them, especially with the new addition of handchimes.

On this Christmas morning, we opened stockings and a few presents, given that we already did stockings and gift exchange for St. Nicholas Day. We will have dinner at noon with Nana and Paco, bringing Nana over from her room in skilled nursing to the main dining room for the holiday buffet, as we did at Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, my younger sister and her family will arrive for a couple of days.

Still, it is difficult for me to feel festive. It’s hard to marvel at the wonder of the Incarnation while thinking about logistics and everyday details.

Perhaps, that is the message, though. The wonder of the Incarnation is that it arrived by everyday means, the birth of a child in complicated circumstances, something that happens around the world every day.

Perhaps, I can take that message into my own heart today, reminding myself that the spirit of Love is within and around us in our everyday experiences, if we only reflect and notice.

Wishing that spirit of Love to each of you,
Joanne

SoCS: cookie time!

There are several tins of delicious cookies sitting on my kitchen counter.

Although I can bake, my spouse B long ago took over making the bulk of the Christmas cookies. Right now, we have cinnamon pizzelles, gingerbread decorated with icing, shortbreads, and cherry pistachio biscotti.

Yum!

Our cookie season is extended more than usual this year because we started with St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, celebrating with E and ABC before they left for London. We continued our celebration last weekend with my older sister and her husband and we are expecting my younger sister and her family the day after Christmas.

B has made multiple batches of some of the cookies this year, but is making fewer kinds than he has in some years. We often have pfeffernuesse, pecan puffs, and different flavors of pizzelles in our assortment. Also, we sometimes make sugar cookies, including some that look like Reddy Kilowatt in honor of Paco’s many years of service at the New England Power Company.

This year, though, I am happy with fewer types of cookies. Fewer choices to make! It’s hard to have one of each when there are eight or nine types. 😉
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “tin.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-22-18/

a new ornament for the tree

We decorated our Christmas tree today. While many people put their trees up right after Thanksgiving here in the United States, we usually wait until closer to Christmas and keep it up until Epiphany. This year, knowing that daughter E and granddaughter ABC will be heading to the UK mid-month for the holidays, we decided to decorate early in order to observe St. Nicholas Day on December sixth for exchanging gifts and opening stockings.

At almost eighteen months, we weren’t sure how ABC would react to tree trimming. We went through our considerable cache of ornaments and chose all the indestructible and child-safe ones for the bottom half of the tree. ABC was delighted with all the rocking horses, bells, animals, musical instruments, angels, etc. and ran back and forth with them. She wanted them on the tree and then wanted them back off to play with them, but, eventually, we got the whole tree decorated. We are sure there will be lots of opportunities to re-hang ornaments after she decides to play with them again!

I love our Christmas ornament collection, which includes ones that came to us from our families, handmade ones, and many that we have collected while travelling. One special one that we added this year is a handmade downy woodpecker, which we bought to commemorate the one that our daughters tried to rescue.
downy

The woodpecker’s new bear friend is one that we have had for decades.

And two of ABC’s words are “bear” and “bird”, even if they do sound a lot alike when she says them.

I admit that, with so much going on this past year, I am having trouble feeling in the Christmas spirit, but ABC’s delighted squeals with each new ornament certainly helped.

New Year’s Eve poem

Last year, Silver Birch Press published my poem “Eastern Standard” as part of their “Me, during the Holidays” series. https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/eastern-standard-poem-by-joanne-corey-me-during-the-holidays-poetry-and-prose-series/ .

I am pleased to share the poem here today. Wishing everyone a new year filled with peace and joy!

JC

Corey

Eastern Standard
by Joanne Corey

As the third millennium turned,
our family toasted with sparkling cider
at midnight Greenwich Mean Time,
seven in the evening for us,
in deference to daughters’ bedtimes.

With our children grown, the two
of us honor that tradition,
clink glasses, savor the past,
sip, hope for the future,
in evening dark as midnight.

Continuing a year of firsts

Today, my mother-in-law, known here as Grandma, would have turned 85.

Instead of buying flowers or her favorite truffles from a local sweets shop and making plans for her birthday dinner, we are faced with the six-month anniversary of her death and the beginning of a new season without her.

We have already been through the first Easter and Mother’s Day without her.

On August 15th, we didn’t buy flowers in remembrance of her and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary.

In the months ahead, there will be the first Thanksgiving without her and the first Christmas and the first Valentine’s Day.

We won’t be bringing her flowers on March 17th to celebrate Evacuation Day, an inside family joke that originated with Grandpa’s years as an elementary school principal.

A few days later will be the first anniversary of her death.

And then a year of seconds.

Thank you to the authors who participated in our poetry and prose series during 2015

I am so glad that to have found Silver Birch Press in 2015! I am so pleased to have been part of five of these series:
All About My Name
My Perfect Vacation
My Sweet Word
When I Hear That Song
Me, During the Holidays

What will 2016 bring? It will be exciting to experience it!

Silver Birch Press

thank you
During 2015, the Silver Birch Press blog featured 10 poetry and prose series. Many thanks to all who participated. All told, our 2015 writing prompts generated 965 poems and stories — the vast majority written specifically for our series. Amazing!

IAM WAITING Poetry Series (Dec. 1, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015): 137 participants

WHERE I LIVE Poetry & Photography Series(Feb. 1 – March 31, 2015): 132 participants

ME, AS A CHILD Poetry Series (April 1 – May 31, 2015): 175 participants

ALL ABOUT MY NAME Poetry Series (June 1 – July 18, 2015): 160 participants

MY PERFECT VACATION Poetry & Prose Series (July 19 – Aug. 21, 2015): 71 participants

MY METAMORPHOSIS Poetry & Prose Series (Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, 2015): 52 participants

MY SWEET WORD Poetry & Prose Series(Sept. 16 – Oct. 31, 2015): 98 participants

WHEN I HEAR THAT SONG Poetry & Prose Series

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SoCS: socks

Both of my daughters love socks!

They have lots of colors and designs – all manner of animals, flowers, stripes, weaves, sparkles. Every color possible. Over the knees, knee-high, ankle – even socks with toes knitted in, like gloves for the feet.

Our older daughter’s sock acquisition is on hold for now. Living in Honolulu means much less time wearing socks.

Our younger daughter, though, received a number of fun socks yesterday. Some were appropriately in her Christmas stocking and others wrapped under the tree. The most fun pair was a pair of knee-highs with a large nutcracker on each.

I wonder what socks she will choose to wear today for the second day of Christmas, as we prepare for the arrival of aunts, uncles, and cousins later today.

I’m sure they will be fun to match our continued festive-and-fun celebrations!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “socks.” Join us!  Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/12/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-2615/

SoCS badge 2015

 

Our Christmas Eve and Day

Two blogger friends, Tric of My Thoughts on a Page and Jay Dee of I Read Encyclopedias for Fun, have done recent posts about their (and others’) and their countries’ experiences of Christmas. Tric is from Ireland and Jay Dee is from Canada but has lived in Japan for a number of years. They each asked for comments about their readers’ Christmas experiences, so this post is doing triple duty – for my own readers and to put in the comments for Tric and Jay Dee.

This Christmas, my husband B and I are very happy to have our older daughter E and her husband L visiting from Honolulu and our younger daughter T home on break from grad school in Syracuse, New York, about a 90 minute drive from here.

With most of the holiday tasks under control, we started Christmas Eve day with a trip to a morning showing of the new Star Wars movie, a second time for each of us, although a first time seeing it together. In the afternoon, we did some chores, finished up the gift-wrapping, and rested or took naps to be ready for a late night.

At 5 PM, we were happy to be able to livestream a radio broadcast of Holidays at Hendricks, from Syracuse University. Although T is in grad school at SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry, she is eligible for music activities at Syracuse University which is directly adjacent to the ESF campus. This year, she is singing with the Hendricks Chapel Choir, so it was extra-special to hear her choir sing on this program.

After dinner, B and I made date nut and cranberry breads for Christmas breakfast and listened to E and T sing Christmas carols, accompanied by L on the piano. So beautiful! I managed not to cry, but barely.

About 11:00, B headed to bed and E, T, L, and I headed to Holy Family for midnight Mass. The church which we attended when the girls were young and in which we all served in music ministry is closed, but we were happy to attend Holy Family where our former music director and good friend landed, along with the music library and handbells from our old parish. T sang and rang handbells at Holy Family before she headed off to grad school. There are enough people we know there that it felt like a homecoming.

There was a half hour prelude by the Genesis (adult) choir, handbell choir, and guest trumpeter, followed by midnight Mass. Father Clarence’s homily brought together the Scripture and our current world, as good homilies do. He reminded the congregation that the Holy Family fled to Egypt for safety as refugees do. He asked what would have happened if Egypt had closed its borders and sent them back. He did not have to mention Syria to get the point across. He also spoke about our need to seek peace, even in the face of violence in the world, by referring to a French man who lost his wife in last month’s Paris attacks but refuses to be bitter.

After a short night’s sleep, most of the household was up at 6:00 to start on Christmas dinner, the gentlemen taking the lead. L was making bread and B made the lasagna, using the recipe from my mother. We started making lasagna for Christmas Day back when my daughters and I used to be involved in music ministry for a Christmas morning children’s mass. We would assemble the lasagna the day before to bake after we got home from church to eat Christmas dinner at noon. Now we continue that tradition.

Between kitchen tasks, we ate breakfast and opened stockings and gifts. E and L went for a walk in the way-warmer-than-it-should-be December weather. A bit before noon, Nana, Paco, and Grandma arrived. Everyone enjoyed dinner, followed by Christmas cookies, fruitcake, and fudge. There was another round of presents. E and L made presents for the grandparents. E made a counted cross-stitch of a row of girls – Japanese for Grandma and Hawaiian for Nana and Paco. L made a paról for each home, including ours. A paról is Filipino star-shaped Christmas ornament, traditionally a bamboo lantern, although these were made from paper. L made them for us in honor of his parents’ home country, where they grew up before immigrating to the UK as young adults.

We had a lovely visit, which was followed by some more family visits facilitated by technology. E and L visited with his family in London by skype. December 25th is also L’s father’s birthday, so there was an extra reason to call. Only  being five time zones away instead of ten as they are in Honolulu was a help. B and I talked by phone with B’s brother. We didn’t talk to my sisters, but they will be arriving in town tomorrow for the continuation of our Christmas celebration.

We played Apples to Apples this evening and have been watching some television while I write this post. I don’t know if our Christmas is a typical US one or not, but it is special for us, especially because we were able to have both daughters here, something that becomes rarer as they get older and head out on their own. I hope other people have had lovely days filled with family, food, and love.

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