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Time for Christmas!

December 14, 2009

Yesterday was Santa Lucia’s Day, which in the Scandinavian countries means a celebration of light, complete parades at dawn and 6 am breakfasts of saffron buns and coffee or hot chocolate. I didn’t celebrate it, mostly because I was at the boy’s parents and had laundry to do, but also because I’m away from the people I’ve always celebrated those traditions with.  I didn’t think I would miss the Scandinavian culture I was so immersed in back home, but the thought of not celebrating Tjuegondedag Knut on January 13th, complete with music (played by me on fiddle and Ron the accordionist, mostly), singing and dancing, and the best damn split pea soup ever, not to mention oodles of old lady-baked Scandinavian Christmas goodies. I missed Santa Lucia’s Day, too, in the beautiful church with the great acoustics and all the little girls and boys dressed up in white robes with tinsel crowns and electric candles (girls) and paper and tinfoil star wands and hats (boys) and the young girl who gets chosen to be Lucia (usually the oldest girl who shows up – I got usurped in my glory as the youngest Lucia ever at the tender age of 13 by an even more tender 9 year old a few years ago during a snow storm) dressed in the white dress (not a choir robe like the others), crown of electric lights and fake greens, and the wide red ribbon sash. It’s a pretty little ceremony and of course, there’s always good food afterwards.

And I miss it! I didn’t think I would. It’s a little strange, being so disconnected from back home this year. I wish I could carry on the tradition here in my new home, but I don’t know enough people yet, and they just don’t share my Scandinavian background. So, I’m trying to make new traditions.

We have a fake tree now, but this week the boy and I are going to buy Christmas greens (and maybe a little floral foam and floral tape) to fill some lovely vintage glass containers/vases I’ve got. I love the smell of cedar and pine, but when you’ve got carpeting and no real vacuum cleaner (just a carpet sweeper) pine needles everywhere would be a real nightmare!

I’m going to buy some oranges when we go grocery shopping tonight. I need at least one pomander (I’ve already got whole cloves) and I’d like to make some candied orange peel. I’d like to get some grapefruit, too, and try my hand at grapefruit curd (since lemon curd was so darn easy!). I bought a few vanilla beans (read: 2 – those buggers are expensive!) at the coop up north, so I want to try and make pastry cream, but won’t until I have something to fill it with! I also got a few whole spices – cinnamon sticks, star anise, black peppercorns, rosehips – that I might simmer into a hot drink, or make flavored olive oil for the boy to dip bread in (he swears he could live off of french bread and pepper olive oil).

Today I am going to bake cranberry upside down cake. I found it on Kitchen Illiterate’s blog. She adapted it from Dorie Greenspan, who’s cookbook on baking I find I really must have! Lovely stuff, over there, at Kitchen Illiterate. Unpretentious, but unusual flavors.

I was supposed to work today, but icy roads, hills, front wheel drive, and being blocked out of your only non-hilly exit by another car prevented that. Luckily, I have very flexible hours, as the museum is closed for the season. Hopefully things will be less icy tomorrow. I think they will, it’s getting pretty melty out.

So, baking, Christmas greens, what else is a new tradition? Well, I’d like to have a Christmas party, which I may very well be hosting on Saturday, and possibly Sunday as well! Another tradition is cleaning. I’ve been cleaning my buns off (I wish) to “get my house in order.” This is why I like having guests – they force you to clean your house! The kitchen and bathroom are now nearly spotless and just require a bit of reorganizing. The bedroom and living room still need a bit of work, but I’m confident that by the time Saturday rolls around, all will be finished! I’m even going to force myself to get up and showered early every day that I don’t work this week.

A lot of people like to clean in the spring, but I kind of like cleaning around Christmas and the solstice. There’s always a lot going on around Christmas and making your house pretty for the festivities makes cleaning seem like less of a chore. Besides, as a student, spring was always the busiest time of year! No way did I want to mope around cleaning baseboards. It also helps having a small place. Despite it’s lack of storage, which makes keeping things picked up and put away a job in and of itself, it’s nice to have only three rooms and a bathroom to clean. I definitely do not want a huge house when we finally get one.

Okay, so, coniferous greens, baking, pomanders, cleaning, I think I’ll add paper snowflakes to that list, that’s always a fun (if slightly messy) project, regardless of how old or young you are. If I have time later in the week, I’m also going to try my hand at a few cookies. It helps to have a clean kitchen when you want to bake or cook – it motivates you! Of course, then you have to clean up afterwards, which is no fun, but still. I’m learning slowly but surely that cleaning everyday in small doses keeps the bigger jobs not so big. But, I have to admit, there is something seriously satisfying in making something messy and dirty clean and neat.

I think I am turning into a ’50s housewife. Well, let me rephrase that, a drug-free, depression-free, socially and politically liberated ’50s housewife. Who’s not desperately miserable, but instead blissfully happy. Well, mostly. *grin*

And now, m’dears, I think the butter might actually be at room temperature. Time to get baking!

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